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Stratford Hall 


The Great House oj the Lees 



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Whose devoted work for Stratford Hall conserves 
the record of a great family, re-creates a 
manner of living long since gone, 
and bears a message from 
the past to the 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2015 


p* |[ SHIS book records the history of the men and women who were 
the owners and occupants of Stratford over a period of more than 
two hundred years. It is a document of human lives and char- 
acters rather than a formal historical treatise or an architectural or tech- 
nical record of the restoration of the Great House. The desire to write 
such a book came to me when 1 first saw Stratford in the spring of 1928. 
I wanted to know the kind of men the Lees of Stratford were aside from 
their public lives; to see pictures of the eighteenth century neighbor- 
hood and plantation life around Stratford and learn what relationship 
the men and their house bore to the county, as well as to colony and 
state; how they treated their servants and slaves; what they thought 
about books and religion. I wanted to know about the women they 
loved and married, or loved and did not marry — and also of their com- 
panionship with their children. 

Only through knowledge of these things could the stature of each 
man be determined, his real nature and influence discerned and gauged. 
The intimate personal record of a man, his "private life” as it is curiously 
termed, inevitably explains and illumines his public life so that the two 
are essentially one. What odd psychology ever to separate them! 

Answers came to all my questions, not quickly of course, but grad- 
ually during the next seven years. Many came through discoveries of 
original letters and documents. Such authentic personal records, here- 
tofore unpublished, form part of the substance of this history. In these 
pages, the Lees of Stratford speak for themselves in their own words. 

Their letters, directly quoted throughout the book, are supplemented 
by court records and other documentary proof. My interpretation of 
the lives of the Lees is based on the friendship that has come about 
from long familiarity with these letters. They, of course, cannot be 
quoted in full within the limits of a single volume. 

First acknowledgments for assistance in the preparation of the book 
belong to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Yale University, 
and the Library of Congress. 

The Lee Foundation sponsored the historical research after 1928. 
During one year of this period the active cooperation of Yale Univer- 
sity in the research was received when a grant was given the Foundation 
through the Mabel Brady Garvan Institute of American Arts and Crafts. 
Dr. Everett V. Meeks, Dean of the Yale University School of the Fine 
Arts, appointed me to continue the search for specific records that would 
provide the historical background for the architectural restoration of 


Stratford. Research into the personal histories of the Lees, in which I 
had been chiefly interested, was therefore subordinated to that required 
by the archaeological and purely architectural demands of the house, 
the grounds and gardens. Numerous facts came to light in the re- 
newed examination of the personal letters and documents and additional 
original source material, as mentioned in Chapter XXIV, was dis- 

When the Lee Foundation began preparations in 1934 for the dedi- 
cation of Stratford as a national shrine, I was released from research 
proper in order to write the book which, in the meantime, had been 
requested by the publishers. The Foundation was interested in having 
the material which had been collected over the six-year period made 
readily available and a concrete record of the restoration as accom- 
plished up to the dedication year. For the generous aid given for this 
purpose I wish to express my appreciation to the Lee Foundation, and 
especially to its President and the Book Committee. 

The names of the Board of Directors of the Lee Foundation are 
omitted at their special request. Also omitted are the names of members 
of the national and state advisory boards and all individuals officially 
connected in a volunteer capacity with the Stratford work as well as 
those of cooperating organizations, large and small, and all donors and 
contributors as it is impracticable in a volume of this size to include 
these names. 

In the words of the President of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foun- 

"The policy the Foundation would have preferred to see followed 
in this, the dedication edition of the book on Stratford Hall — would 
have been to thank individually every one of our friends and helpers of 
the hundreds scattered over the land. But this is not possible. 

"Some of these who have given so freely of their time or money or 
both are powerful and nationally known organizations with tens of thou- 
sands of members; others are small organizations or individuals of 
modest means who have given relatively little money but so much and 
so cheeringly in proportion to their resources that the Foundation is 
deeply moved by the thought of their self-sacrifice. Without the aid re- 
ceived from all the purchase of Stratford could not have been effected 
or the restoration of house, outbuildings or gardens, accomplished up 
to its present stage. The Foundation must allow this work at Stratford 
itself to attest the generosity of the thousands who have made it possible. 

"Although, in this record of the history of Stratford it has been dif- 
ficult for us to avoid public acknowledgment of the contributions that 

have meant so much to the Foundation, especially in the critical years 
when our work was beginning, unless such acknowledgment can be 
given to all, we have come to the conclusion that it is better not to give 
such record to any among the large number who have so generously 
helped us, even though we feel so deeply grateful. 

"It would require a large volume in itself to record accurately and 
comprehensively the names and donations of all the friends of Stratford. 
And this we have done in our Book of the Contributors to Stratford 

From the Library of Congress I have received every conceivable aid 
through the cooperation given by Martin A. Roberts, Superintendent of 
Reading Rooms. When books of the original Stratford library came to 
light in Alexandria, Virginia, Hugh Alexander Morrison, Custodian of 
the Representatives’ Reading Room, assisted in cataloguing them and 
quickly located missing title pages and other lost fragments of text and 
illustrations in editions available only in the British Museum or in the 
libraries of Yale University or Harvard College. Mr. Morrison also sup- 
plied some valuable information about Richard Henry Lee. 

When the privilege of examining the journal written by Light-Horse 
Harry Lee was kindly extended by its discoverer and owner, Dr. William 
Moseley Brown, at his Virginia home, and the aid of a Greek and Latin 
scholar was necessary, Dr. Harold W. Miller of the Library staff assisted 
in the interpretation of this rare document. Karl Trever helped in the 
examination of the files of the Journals of Congress and in the com- 
pilation of records about the birthplace of Ann Hill Carter. Donald G. 
Patterson, in charge of study rooms, prepared a list of references on 
Arthur Lee, Richard Henry Lee and William Lee. Willard Webb made 
the pen and ink sketches of the coats of arms in this volume. George W. 
Morgan directed the making of the photostats. Transcriptions of the 
letters of Ann Carter Lee in the Division of Manuscripts and of those 
in the possession of the Lee Foundation were made by Maud Kay Sites. 
To all of these members of the staff of the Library of Congress, includ- 
ing also Claus Bogel, A. W. Kremer, Frank E. Louraine and Samuel M. 
Croft, I am indebted for most courteous cooperation. To Dr. Leicester 
B. Holland, Chief of the Division of Fine Arts, I am indebted for sug- 
gestions in the selection and placement of many of the illustrations. 

I also wish to thank Dean Meeks and Professor Charles Nagel, Jr., of 
Yale University for their constructive aid and never flagging interest in 
that part of the Stratford research made under their direction and with 
their constant cooperation since the completion of the first "Stratford 
Survey.” From the Yale University Library has also come practical and 


generous cooperation with the Stratford research through Andrew 
Keogh, Librarian, and Charles E. Rush, Assistant Librarian, who pro- 
vided the Lee Foundation with several hundred photostats of original 
Lee letters and documents lent by descendants of the Stratford Lees. 

Thanks are due Walter B. Briggs, Acting Librarian of Harvard Col- 
lege Library, for making its collection of Lee Letter Books readily ac- 
cessible; and to Mrs. Anna F. Dakin, assistant in the Archives Collection, 
for special aid in locating records of Charles Carter Lee and other mem- 
bers of the class of 1819. 

For certain interesting information I am indebted to Francis P. Gaines, 
President of Washington and Lee University; Dr. E. G. Swem, Libra- 
rian of the College of William and Mary; Emily L. Wilson, Librarian, 
Florida State Historical Society; Dr. W. G. Stanard, Virginia Histori- 
cal Society; Mrs. Victor Stewart of Chippokes Plantation; Robert Nel- 
son, Director of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce; Emma Chip- 
ley of Moorefield, West Virginia; Captain Dudley W. Knox, officer-in- 
charge of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Navy Department; 
Mrs. Frederick Walls of Georgetown, Delaware; Professor R. E. E. 
Harkness, President of the American Baptist Historical Society; Harold 
Shurtleff, Director of the Department of Research and Record of the 
Williamsburg Holding Corporation; John H. K. Burgwin, George Stuart, 
Tench Tilghman Marye, Charles E. Stuart, Richard W. Millar, T. Mor- 
rison Carnegie of Dungeness, Cumberland Island, and the Honorable 
R. Walton Moore, Assistant Secretary of State. 

Historical records relating to the Somerville family and to the career 
of William Clarke Somerville, fifth master of Stratford, have been fur- 
nished by James W. Somerville, J. A. Somerville and Elizabeth Hebb. 

Grateful acknowledgment is especially due to Dr. Douglas Southall 
Freeman, Henry W. Lanier, Dr. Charles O. Paullin, Gist Blair, Dr. 
Elizabeth Kite, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Resor, and Miss Janet Richards, 
all of whom have read various portions of the manuscript and, as friend- 
ly critics, have given me sympathetic and most constructive aid. 

It is impossible to express how much this book owes to Roma Kauff- 
man. In addition to special research, she has given a critical reading of 
every portion of the manuscript, and I am grateful for her discrimi- 
nating criticism. I also thank Lucy Brown Beale, who has so ably assisted 
in the research in Virginia courthouses and in many other ways has had 
an effective part in this work. Marian H. Addington provided inter- 
esting details of Stratford in Essex, helped with the Lee genealogical 
charts and in the interpretation and transcription of many original Lee 
letters and photostats. For much of the work of transcribing, as well 


as of checking and rechecking with the quotes and records, I am in- 
debted to my secretary, Rosa M. Wade. 

Among the members of the Lee family who have generously per- 
mitted the use of exclusive historical or pictorial material in their pos- 
session are Mrs. Mildred Lee Francis, Mrs. Hugh Antrim, Mrs. Gran- 
ville G. Valentine, Mrs. Ellin Lee Rhea, Dr. George Bolling Lee, J. Col- 
lins Lee, Thomas Alexander Lee, Robert Randolph Lee, Dr. Henry 
Lee, Mrs. Catharine Lee Hopkins, Charles Carter Lee, Jr., and Dr. Lloyd 
P. Shippen. Mrs. Francis, granddaughter of Light-Horse Harry Lee, read 
many chapters of the manuscript, and I have received from her much 
information of historical value. 

Photographs of Stratford have been taken by Frances Benjamin John- 
ston, Dr. Orrin S. Wightman, Theodore Irving Coe, the Virginia State 
Chamber of Commerce, and the Lucy Lamar Galleries. Photographs of 
rare portraits have been furnished by the Frick Art Reference Library, 
the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Virginia Historical Society. 

The volume is divided into four parts or books, three of which trace 
the history of the Lees and of the Clifts Plantation — later Stratford — 
from the time that Jamestown and Williamsburg were the colonial 
capitals of Virginia through the first quarter of the nineteenth century, 
when the estate passed out of the ownership of the Lee family into that 
of the Somerville, Storke, McCarty and Stuart families, and finally the 
Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. Book Four treats briefly of the 
Great House under the ownership of the Foundation. Record of its 
"rediscovery” in 1928 and the preliminary research is followed by that 
of the formation of the Lee Foundation to purchase and restore the 
property and to dedicate and maintain it as a national shrine. An author- 
itative presentation of the archaeological explorations and the partial 
restoration of the mansion, certain of the outbuildings, portions of the 
grounds, and the Stratford gardens has been made possible through 
the cooperation of Arthur A. Shurcliff, Fiske Kimball, Herbert A. Clai- 
borne and Morley J. Williams, all of whom have generously lent their 
reports and specifications and afforded me through the Lee Foundation 
the use of their maps, photographs, drawings and plans. My thanks 
are extended to them also for giving a critical reading of the chapters 
dealing with this part of the Stratford work. For other points of archi- 
tectural information about Stratford I am indebted to William Law- 
rence Bottomley and Thomas Tileston Waterman, Assistant Director, 
Historic American Buildings Survey, U. S. Department of the Interior. 

In reading and correcting the proof of the entire book I have had the 
expert assistance of Lalla Herrscher Cornish and I wish particularly to 


express my appreciation for this invaluable aid and also for the many 
constructive suggestions Mrs. Cornish has so generously given. 

Notwithstanding meticulous care, certain errors have crept into my 
manuscript, as in the epitaph on the tomb of the second Richard Lee 
at Burnt House Fields. When I revisited this old burying ground of 
the Lees for the purpose of deciphering the inscriptions on the tombs, 
rain put a speedy end to the task. Accordingly I availed myself of the 
version used in Lee of Virginia, evidently copied from that of Bishop 
Meade. When this book had gone to press, a member of the Lee family 
presented me with the recently corrected transcript of the inscriptions 
on the tombs and this version has been placed in the Supplementary 
Records. Other additional subject matter appears in the appendix and 
is listed in the table of contents. Much variation in spelling occurs in 
old letters and documents and even in court records, particularly of 
proper names and places. In the transcripts made for this volume great 
care has been taken to reproduce the original context. Wherever it has 
not been possible for me to collate a given copy with the original this 
fact is stated in a footnote. Where mistakes are discovered they will be 
corrected in future editions and I shall appreciate the kindness of readers 
who will call my attention to errors. 

The printed source materials, as well as the manuscripts, are listed in 
the bibliography wherever they are not indicated in the content itself or 
by footnote. Among the books written by the Lees themselves, much 
has been drawn from the writings of Major Henry Lee, the last Lee 
master of Stratford, and from his father’s Memoirs. Some data has 
been obtained from the first biographies of Richard Henry and Arthur 
Lee written by their kinsman of two generations later, Richard Henry 
Lee, Jr., of Shuter’s Hill, Alexandria, and Belmont in Loudoun County. 
E. J. Lee’s Lee of Virginia is a never-failing source of information about 
the Lees and related families. So is Bishop Meade’s Old Churches, Min- 
isters and Families of Virginia. Photostats of Reverend George Wash- 
ington Beale’s series of newspaper articles on Stratford and other early 
plantations of the Northern Neck of Virginia, furnished by R. C. Ballard 
Thruston, have provided interesting and rare source material. Facts of 
intrinsic value to Virginia history and specifically to the Northern Neck, 
are revealed in early nineteenth century books about the early Baptist 
Society in colonial Virginia. 

Among the original letters in the manuscript collections heretofore 
unpublished, certain of the letters of Light-Horse Harry Lee to his family 
throw new light on his history and character. Several letters of Ann 
Carter Lee which also receive their first publication here, add much to 


the meagre records of the mother of Robert £. Lee. Of incomparable 
interest and pathos is the correspondence of Light-Horse Harry Lee’s 
son, Major Henry Lee, and his wife, Anne McCarty Lee. All these letters 
and many others lost for a century were found locked in a trunk stored 
in the smokehouse of an old Virginia home. 

Lrom other unpublished letters and the few published verses of Charles 
Carter Lee, as well as from verbal statements made bv him to his 
daughter Mildred, have come items of information and descriptions of 
great value to the historian and to the Lee Loundation. Carter Lee was 
not only the diarist of early Stratford days; he was also the one archivist 
of his immediate family. 

The Shippen papers in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd P. Shippen, 
as well as those deposited in the Library of Congress, contain original 
letters of Alice Lee Shippen, Hannah Lee Corbin, Lucy Grymes Lee 
Carter, Arthur Lee, Bernard Carter, Dr. William Shippen and Tom 
Shippen — invaluable to the Stratford historian. 

No one can read far into the Lee records without finding the history 
of the family of peculiar psychological interest as well as extraordinary 
historical import. This might also be said of other families whose records 
reach back equally as far. It is a question, however, if there is any family 
so merged into practically every phase of this nation’s making as the 
Lees of Virginia whose history contains such elements of drama. For 
this reason no book about Stratford Hall can be merely a brick and 
mortar record but must be one in which the human being is, as it were, 
the headstone of the building. 

Ethel Armes. 

Richmond, Virginia, 

November eleventh, 1936. 




Preface ix 

Foreword by Franklin D. Roosevelt xxv 




I The Provenance of the Stratford Lees .... 1 

II The Record of a Young Colonial 25 

III The Building of the Great House 45 

IV Commander in Chief of Virginia 65 

V The Second Master of Stratford 88 

VI The Plantation and the Waterfront . . . .114 



VII The Band of Brothers: Intrepid and Unchangeable 139 
VIII Vincit Amor Patriae Laudumque Immensa Cupido 164 

IX Alice Lee: Mistress of Shippen House .... 192 

X Hannah Lee: Mistress of Peckatone .... 199 

XI The Fifth Generation of the Lees 218 

XII The Third Master of Stratford 240 



XIII Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth . . . 263 

XIV The Return to Westmoreland 283 

XV Through Carter’s Eyes 296 

XVI Storm Clouds Gather Over Stratford Hall . .312 

XVII To Secure the Blessings of Liberty 330 

XVIII The End at Dungeness 345 

XIX The Last Lef. Master of Stratford 366 

XX Consul to the Barbary Powers 385 

XXI The Fifth Master of Stratford 411 



XXII Elizabeth McCarty: Mistress of Stratford . . . 422 

The Owners of Stratford on the Potomac, 

1651-1929 439 

The Lees Who Lived at Stratford from 1729-30 

to 1822 440 



XXIII The Scene in 1928 443 

XXIV The Historical Background 455 

XXV The Great House and Its Dependencies .... 477 

XXVI Gardens, Grounds and Orchard 495 

XXVII Stratford Hall: A National Shrine . . . .513 

Supplementary Records: 

1 Genealogical Charts 

Prefatory Note 521 

English Ancestry of the Virginia Lees . . .523 

Richard Lee of England and America . . .524 

Richard Lee of Cople (or Matholic) . . . 525 

Thomas Lee of Stratford Hall 526 

Henry Lee of Lee Hall 527 

2 Records of the Mount Pleasant Line of Lees . .528 

3 Notes About Stratford-Langthorne . . . .532 

4 Record of the Ludwell Family 532 

5 Chippokes Plantation 534 

6 The Deed of 1732 to Chantilly 534 

7 Will of Thomas Lee 534 

8 The Lee Family Burying Grounds in Westmore- 

land 538 

9 The Baptist Society in Colonial Virginia . . . 541 

10 The Birthplace of Ann Hill Carter 543 

11 Records of Lucy Grymes Lee and Bernard M. Carter 546 

12 The Great Drought in Westmoreland .... 547 

Bibliography 549 

Index 559 



Stratford Hall Frontispiece page 

From a photograph of an old painting by Minnie Ward of Bladensfield. (Courtesy of 
Josephine Wheelwright Rust) 

The Foundations of Philip Lud well’s Three Houses at Jamestown , 
Virginia 2 

(Courtesy of The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) 

A mapp of Virginia difcoured to y e Hills: Drawn in 1651 by Vir- 
ginia Ferrar 3 

(Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Division of Maps) 

The Honorable Colonel Richard Lee of Stratford-Langthorne, Essex, 
England, and of Virginia: progenitor of the Stratford Lees . . 5 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist. (Courtesy of Robert E. Lee Memorial 

Coat of Arms — Lee of Coton Hall 6 

Wood carving of Lee Arms on the door of old Cobbs Hall, home 
of the first Richard Lee 10 

Sir William Berkeley, Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia . 13 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist, now in the possession of Maurice duPont 
Lee. (Courtesy of I. Newton Lewis) 

Mrs. Philip Ludwell, Lady Berkeley (Frances Culpeper) widow of 
Sir William Berkeley 14 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist, now in the possession of Maurice duPont 
Lee. (Courtesy of I. Newton Lewis) 

Conjectural restoration of ancient buildings at Jamestown, Virginia, 
on the foundations reputed by Samuel H. Yonge to be the site of 
the Fourth State House, Philip Ludwell’ s Three Houses, and the 

Country House 17 

(Courtesy of Thomas Tileston Waterman) 

The second Philip Ludwell, grandfather of the Stratford Lees . . 21 

From the original portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller. (Courtesy of owner, Gerard B. Lambert, 
and Frick Art Reference Library) 

These wooded palisades of Stratford on Potomac have a rugged 
grandeur and mystic loveliness. In the days of the early Lees eagles 
nested there 27 

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston 

Foundation plan of the Castle at Green Spring, the first Great House 
in Virginia, built by Governor Berkeley about 1648. Property of 
Ludwell and Lee families for 521 years. Discovered and identified 

in 1926 by Jesse Dimmick 30 

The Secretary’s house, Williamsburg 31 

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston. (Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of 
Fine Arts) 


The Secretary’s house, Williamsburg 34 

Photograph by Delos H. Smith. (Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Fine Arts) 

Northwest dependency of the Great House, probably rr The Counting 
House” of Thomas Lee’s inventory (1758) 36 

Photograph by Virginia State Chamber of Commerce. (Courtesy of Robert Nelson, 

Hannah Harrison (Mrs. Philip Ludwell ), grandmother of the Strat- 
ford Lees 38 

From the original painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller. (Courtesy of owner, Gerard B. Lam- 
bert, and Frick Art Reference Library) 

Stratford Hall stands on a broad plateau protected on the river side 
by natural fortifications 44 

Sketch by Morley J. Williams. (Courtesy of The Garden Club of Virginia) 

Landscape design of Ashdown House, Berkshire, England ... 46 

(Courtesy of Country Life, London, England) 

Southwest dependency: probably the Law Office of Stratford . . 48 

Comparative plans, showing similarity of dimensions and founda- 

tion plan between Stratf ord Hall and the Capitol at Williamsburg 50 

(Courtesy of Thomas Tileston Waterman) 

Landscape design for Stratford by Morley J .Williams . . . .51 

(Courtesy of the Garden Club of Virginia) 

A section of the panelling in the Great Hall: Original hardware, 
brass locks, and H-hinges imported from England . . . .53 

An original lock showing British trade-mark 56 

View from one of the dining-room windows looking toward the river 59 

To the robust English character of the early Stratford gardens there 
was added by Thomas Lee a certain Eastern quality, a tropic rich- 
ness 60 

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston 

The first mistress of Stratford Hall: Hannah Ludwell Lee, wife of 
Thomas Lee and mother of the famous Lees 63 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist. (Courtesy of Robert E. Lee Memorial 

Facsimile of the Treaty of Lancaster, 1744 66 - 6 7 

(Courtesy of Virginia State Library) 

Honorable Thomas Lee, ” President of the Council and Commander 
in Chief of Virginia” 69 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist. (Courtesy of Robert E. Lee Memorial 

Facsimile of the instructions from Governor Gooch providing for 
the appointment of the Virginia commission to negotiate the 
Treaty of Lancaster 72-73 

(Courtesy of Virginia State Library) 


Facsimile of first page of original letter, dated W hit e hall [ London} 
September 1, 17 SO, to President Lee from the Board of Trade and 
Plantations 78 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Manuscripts) 

The inscription on the monument to Thomas Lee at Pope’s Creek 
Church, written by Richard Henry Lee. Preserved in a memo- 
randum book by Thomas Lee Shippen 84-85 

(Courtesy of Dr. Lloyd P. Shippen) 

The grave of Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee in Burnt House 

Fields . . * 86 

Northeast dependency of the Great House, probably the Stratford 

School 90 

Captain Henry Lee of Lee Hall and Leesylvania, father of Light- 
Horse Harry Lee and guardian of the Stratford children ... 93 

From an original portrait by an unknown artist. (Courtesy of J. Collins Lee and Virginia 
Historical Society) 

Vista from the Great Hall through the east wing, showing the gardens 103 
The old stable at Stratford before reconstruction 116 

Photograph by Lucy Lamar Galleries 

Pedigree of Dotterel 119 

(Courtesy of American Remount Association) 

Original specipcations for coach ordered in London by Alderman 
William Lee for his sister, Hannah Lee Corbin 121 

(Courtesy of R. Stafford Murphy) 

A typical Virginia landing of the eighteenth century, showing corner 
of tobacco warehouse and other waterfront structures . . . .128 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Maps) 

The site of Stratford Landing 132 

A relic of the skirmish at Stratford Landing during the Revolution . 142 
Richard Henry Lee’s Independence Resolutions introduced in Con- 
tinental Congress, fune 7 , 1776 146 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Manuscripts) 

The Declaration of Independence, showing the signatures of Richard 
Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee 151 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress) 

Map of Virginia at the time of the American Revolution . 152-153 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Maps) 

Richard Henry Lee 155 

From the original portrait by Charles Willson Peale, now in the possession of Mrs. Lanier 
McKee. (Courtesy of Frick Art Reference Library) 

Letter of Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson to the Governor 
of Virginia 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Manuscripts) 


Original verse written by Nancy Ship pen (Mrs. Henry Beekman 

Livingston ) to her uncle, Francis Light foot Lee 161 

(Courtesy of Dr. Lloyd P. Shippen) 

The Penn-Lee letter to the Continental Congress 167 

(Courtesy of New York Times) 

Signature sheet of the Olive Branch Petition .... 168-169 

From facsimile copy in Division of Manuscripts, Library of Congress 

Original letter to the public written by Arthur Lee in Paris . 174- 175 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Division of Manuscripts) 

Arthur Lee 179 

From the original portrait by Charles Willson Peale, now in possession of the Virginia 
Historical Society, to which it was presented by Charles Carter Lee. (Courtesy of Virginia 
Historical Society and Cook Photographers, Richmond) 

Signature sheet of the Treaty of Alliance between the United States 

and France, signed February 6, 1778 184-185 

(Courtesy of Department of State, Division of Archives) 

The site of Chantilly on the Potomac, home of Richard Henry Lee . 188 
Excerpt from original letter of Hannah Lee Corbin to her sister 
Alice 200-201 

(Courtesy of Dr. Lloyd P. Shippen) 

View of the Stratford gardens through English beeches . . . 203 

Vista from the Great Hall through the west wing, looking toward 

the old Cliff Road to the river 207 

The playground of Matilda and Flora 221 

The old beeches at Stratford 224 

Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston 

Gold medal presented to Henry Lee by Act of Congress . . . 233 

From E. J. Lee’s Lee of Virginia, p. 332 

Colonel Harry Lee of the Legion 237 

(Courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical Society) 

Across the broad expanse of fragrant gardens was the family burial 
ground of the Stratford Lees 245 

Closing paragraph of Henry Lee’s oration on the death of General 
Washington 248 

(Courtesy of Library of Congress, Rare Book Collection) 

Nancy Lee (Mrs. Charles Lee), daughter of Richard Henry Lee . . 254 

From the original portrait by Sully, now in the possession of Mrs. Joseph Packard. 
(Courtesy of Frick Art Reference Library) 

Henry Lee, Governor of Virginia 265 

From the original portrait by Saint Memin. (Courtesy of Lewis P. Woltz, Photographer, and 
Corcoran Gallery of Art) 

The third Philip Ludwell Lee, heir of Stratford 267 

From the original miniature. Now in the possession of Mrs. Hugh Antrim of Richmond, 
Virginia. (Courtesy of the owner) 


Carter Coat of Arms 282 

The fruits and shades of Stratford 284 

East passage leading from the Great Hall to the Mother’s Room . 298 

Guardian angels of the Nursery of Stratford 310 

West passage leading to the parlor and the Cherry Tree Room . .31 6 

Portrait of William Pitt which hung at Stratford 319 

From engraving owned by John Leeds Bozman. Original allegorical portrait by Charles 
Willson Peale at Westmoreland County Courthouse, Montross, Va. (Courtesy of Mrs. 

John Henry King Burgwin [Ruth Leeds Kerr]) 

Mildred Lee Childe, youngest child of Light-Horse Harry and 
Ann Lee 333 

From a plate of the original drawing. (Courtesy of Mrs. Mildred Lee Francis) 

Pitzhugh Coat of Arms 344 

Major General Henry Lee (Light-Horse Harry ) 351 

From the original portrait by Gilbert Stuart, now in the possession of Mrs. Mildred Lee 
Francis, Annapolis, Maryland. (Courtesy of the owner) 

The grave at Dun gene ss 361 

The entrance road to Stratford 368 

The Great House deserted 378 

Photograph by Lucy Lamar Galleries 

William Henry Pitzhugh of Ravensworth 389 

Portrait by Sully. (Courtesy of Dr. George Bolling Lee and Frick Art Reference Library) 

Mrs. William Henry Pitzhugh of Ravensivorth 391 

Portrait by Sully. (Courtesy of Dr. George Bolling Lee and Frick Art Reference Library) 

Anne McCarty Lee, wife of Major Henry Lee 401 

Portrait by an unknown artist. (Courtesy of Honorable and Mrs. Charles E. Stuart) 

Lucy Grymes Lee, Mrs. Bernard M. Carter, daughter of Light-Horse 
Harry Lee and his first wife, Matilda Lee 407 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist. Now in the possession of Mrs. Morgan 
La Montague. (Courtesy of Frick Art Reference Library) 

McCarty Coat of Arms 410 

William Clarke Somerville 413 

From the original portrait by Saint Memin. (Courtesy of James A. Somerville and 
Corcoran Gallery of Art) 

The gardens were revived 4l6 

Washington Coat of Arms 421 

The path leading to the herb garden 428 

The Last Wing of the Mansion 430 

The West Wing of the Mansion 432 ' 

The grave of Elizabeth McCarty Storke 436 


Bleak and gaunt the Great House stood 444 

Growing in the broken chimney caps were weeds and bushes . . 446 

Photograph by Theodore Irving Coe 

The chimney towers of Stratford Hall 452 

Photograph by Theodore Irving Coe 

The old spring 456 

Alcove in the dining room 463 

Eighteenth century bird house under the eaves of the southwest out- 
building 464 

Ruins of the vault in the family burial ground 468 

Eire insurance policies on Stratford taken out by Light-Horse Harry 
Lee 472-473 

(Courtesy Mutual Assurance Society of Richmond and Robert A. Lancaster, Jr.) 

Interior of kitchen before restoration 474 

The old kitchen restored 480 

The old kitchen and the south ha-ha wall. First building at Stratford 
to be restored 482 

Interior of kitchen after restoration 484 

Original inside staircase leading from ground floor to East Passage 
on main floor 487 

Floor plans of Stratford Hall 490 - 491 - 492-493 

Drawn by Fiske Kimball. (Courtesy of Mr. Kimball) 

The octagon summer house restored on its original foundations . . 494 

"On the Potomac doth a mansion stand.” 498-499 

Description of Stratford from "Virginia Georgies," by Charles Carter Lee. (Courtesy of 
Robert Randolph Lee) 

The east ha-ha wall and the repaired smokehouse 502 

The restoration plan of Stratford gardens by Morley J. Williams . 508 

(Courtesy of the Garden Club of Virginia) 

Mrs. George Washington Parke Custis (Mary Lee Eitzlough), first 
mistress of Arlington House, mother of Mrs. Robert E. Lee . .515 

From the original portrait by an unknown artist. Now in the possession of Dr. Bolling 
Lee. (Courtesy of Frick Art Reference Library) 

Alary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee 518 

(Courtesy of Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation) 

Robert E. Lee in dress uniform of a Lieutenant of Engineers (about 
1831 ) 520 

Portrait credited to Beniamin West, Jr. (Courtesy of Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation) 



I ALWAYS think of myself as a rediscoverer of Stratford. Probably 
there were many others who, like myself, stumbled upon the Strat- 
ford of twenty years ago. I knew of its existence, of course, but not 
its precise location. When, therefore, a party of us who were serving in 
the Wilson administration landed from the small presidential yacht 
Sylph at an apparently uninhabited section of the lower Potomac and 
Stratford appeared before us as we strolled inland, we felt the thrill of 
a Balboa upon a peak of Darien. The amazing dignity of the great house, 
of the outbuildings and barns, transcended the want of repair and the 
lack of accessibility. Many times after that I returned to visit Doctor 
Stuart and to wander with him through the rooms and then up to the 
roof to see if aught remained of the original glimpse of the Potomac. 

It is right and fitting that Stratford is being made once more a shrine 
to which the lovers of the history of our land can come from every part 
of the nation. It is a shrine dedicated to a great American family and 
especially to the memory of that very great gentleman, Robert E. Lee. 
It is equally a permanent memorial to a brave, young civilization for 
which modern America will always be grateful. 



(1635 - 1760 ) 



C LOSE to the sea-wall along the southwestern edge of Jamestown 
Island, near Pitch and Tarr Swamp of old record, lie the foun- 
dations of Philip Ludwell’s three houses. Next to them is all that 
remains of the fourth State House, also built by Ludwell on the site of 
the building destroyed by Nathaniel Bacon and his followers in the 
revolution of 1676. Familiar figures in the capitol at Jamestown, were 
Colonel Ludwell himself, Colonel Richard Lee of Gloucester County, 
Henry Corbin of Middlesex, Benjamin Harrison of Surry, Theodorick 
Bland of Charles City, and Edmund Jenings of York. These six "top- 
ping” men, Britain’s '"trusty and well beloved,” were ""Old Standers” in 
that country, to use the phrase of their friend and fellow councillor, 
Robert Beverley. With the exception of Philip Ludwell and Benjamin 
Harrison, each of them was the first of his family to come from England 
to the Colony. 

The marriages that took place among the members of these families, 
late in the seventeenth century or early in the eighteenth, draw a pattern 
of relationships which has an important bearing on this record and on 
the history of Virginia and the United States. For these six men were 
the forebears of the Stratford Lees. 

Philip Ludwell’s son, Philip, married Hannah, daughter of Benjamin 
Harrison; Lee’s son, Richard, married Laetitia, the daughter of Henry 
Corbin. Their son, Henry Lee, married Mary, granddaughter of Theo- 
dorick Bland. Light-Horse Harry Lee 1 of the Revolution, father of Rob- 
ert E. Lee, was their descendant. Through his mother came the Jenings 

The fifth son of Richard and Laetitia Lee was Thomas, who became 
President and Commander in Chief of Virginia, one of the important 
colonials of his generation, "'to Country and to Court alike a Friend.” 
the man through whose enterprise the vast region of the Ohio basin 
was opened to English settlement. Thomas Lee married Hannah Lud- 
well, the daughter of the second Philip Ludwell. They were the 
builders of Stratford Hall, the Great House in Westmoreland County, 
which had a significant part in a hundred years of America’s history. 

Thomas and Hannah Lee were the parents of eleven children, of 
whom eight survived to take a constructive part in the upbuilding of 
Virginia and the making of this nation. 

1 Light-Horse Harry Lee was not born at Stratford. He became master there at the close of 
the Revolution and in this relation is accounted a Stratford 

[ 1 ] 

Ancient 3 Wn 5 atiom? at ^amestoron.^a. 

(-Discoutici aub § 0 (nfificj in 1903. 




I ; 

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■g •?„«(! 

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Qomtofr c Jiowdi,. T'Wlfy &h 4 *vM °Jhu StoudM 

State - tHomm 

The foundations of Philip Ludwell's three houses at Jamestown, Virginia. 

Their eldest son, Philip, succeeded his father as a member of the 
King’s Council and as owner of Stratford. Under his hand, the planta- 
tion saw further industrial and agricultural expansion and "social ele- 
gance.’’ It became a center for tobacco shipments for the Northern 
Neck and was one of the early stud farms of the Tidewater section. 

The elder daughter, Hannah, was a woman of remarkable vigor of 
intellect and strength of purpose. Indifferent to censure, she stood boldly 
for personal and political freedom, and according to tradition, gave 
ardent support to her younger brothers in their struggle for colonial 

The youngest daughter, Alice, married William Shippen of Philadel- 
phia, the director general of the hospitals of the Continental Army, and 
made a home and headquarters in that city for her brothers and their 
Virginia colleagues of the Continental Congress. 

The other sons of Thomas and Hannah Lee were Thomas Ludwell, 
Richard Henry, Francis Lightfoot, William, and Arthur. They were 
among Virginia’s great champions of liberty during the war for Ameri- 
can independence. Through them the Stratford estate became a center 
of patriot activities some years before the Revolution, the place in 
which originated a number of national and state documents bearing on 
the destiny of this nation, and where many of the letters of the Secret 
Correspondence Committee of the Revolution had their source. President 
John Adams spoke of these five Lees of Stratford as "that band of 
brothers, intrepid and unchangeable, who, like the Greeks at Ther- 

[ 2 ] 

A mapp of Virginia difco tired to y K Hills: Drawn by Virginia Ferrar in 1631. This was 
the year when the first grant was given to Nathaniel Pope for the Clifts, later named 
Stratford Plantation. 

mopylae stood in the gap, in the defense of their country, from the first 
glimmering of the Revolution in the horizon, through all its rising light, 
to its perfect day.” 

Through their Virginia forebears of the seventeenth century, meet- 
ing in the State House on Jamestown Island, and through both sides 
of their immediate ancestry were handed down to the Stratford clan 
high ideals of self-respect, of human rights and liberties. Royalists 
though these six Old Standers were, they were loyal to the Stuarts and to 
the first representatives of the House of Hanover, but they were loyal 
with the dignity of free men who must have a voice in the governance of 
their affairs. 

The second Richard Lee, grandfather of the Stratford Lees, was also 
high in the affairs of state. He served in the last session of the State 
House at James City, representing the county of Westmoreland. Like 
his father, he had seen the institutions of the first legislative body on 
the American continent transmitted in spirit from one State House to 
another; "that they might have a hande in the governinge of themselves 
. . . yt was graunted that a generall Assemblie shoulde be helde yearly 

[ 3 ] 



once, whereat were to be present the Gov*' and Counsell wth two Bur- 
gesses from each Plantation, freely to be elected by the Inhabitants 
thereof, this Assemblie to have power to make and ordaine whatsoever 
lawes and orders should by them be thought good and profitable for 
our subsistance.” 

When, at the turn of the century, the capital was removed from 
Jamestown to Williamsburg by an act which Richard Lee helped to pass, 
he was among the legislators to place within the fabric of the new 
capital these same resolves. When Independence Hall was built in Phila- 
delphia nearly three generations later, the Lees of Virginia carried to it 
the spirit of these resolves. 

So it was not strange that the second Richard Lee’s grandson, Richard 
Henry Lee, should move the Declaration of Independence and that his 
great-grandson, Light-Horse Harry Lee, should die a martyr to civil 


To understand the genesis of this passion for liberty, something of the 
background of the men who transmitted it to the Stratford Lees must 
be known, something of their personal records, their spirit and their 

Richard Lee, founder of the Lee family in Virginia, was near 
enough to the stirring times of great Elizabeth to have in his blood the 
urge to sail strange seas, to explore and settle new lands. His uncle, 
Gilbert Lee of Essex, a leather merchant trading with Virginia, had 
fought against the Armada. The exact date of Richard Lee’s emigration 
to America is unknown. The time of his arrival has always been placed 
at 1641, since this year marks the first public record of his presence in 
the Colony and his first official appointment, that of clerk of the court 
of Jamestown. But a probable residence in Virginia for several years 
prior to this date is shown by notation in Hotten’s Register of the names 
of all the Passengers to America who Passed from the Port of London 
in the year 1634-35 : 2 

2 d May, 1635 

Theis under-written names are to be transported to ye Barbadoes imbarqued 
in the Alexander Capt: Burche, and Gilbert Grimes, M r P. Certificate from the 
Minister where they late dwelt The Men took the oaths of Allegeance and 
supremacie die et anno prd. 

Richard Lee 22 yeres 

Robert Lee 33 yeres 

-John Camden Hotten, The Original Lists, etc., London, 1874, p. 73-75. From MSS. in 
Public Record Office, London. 

The Honorable Colonel Richard Lee of Stratford-Langthorne, Essex, England, and of 
Virginia: progenitor of the Stratford Lees : from the original portrait by an unknown 



There is every likelihood that the Richard Lee named is the great- 
grandfather of the Stratford Lees. Barbados was the first port of call 
for many Virginia colonists. The record seems also to confirm a tradition 
in the Lee family that their ancestor in Virginia came to the colonies 
with a brother and that both settled in York County. It coincides with 
what is known of the emigrant Richard Lee. This is indeed very little, 
for records of his birth and baptism are missing. Possibly they were de- 
stroyed in the great London fire. The only statement of the parentage of 
Richard Lee is in an old family Bible, formerly at Cobbs Hall, Nor- 
thumberland County, Virginia, where he is described as the son of Rich- 
ard Lee of Nordley Regis in Shropshire. The ages of the Richard and 
Robert Lee named in the 1635 licenses "to go beyond the seas’’ would 
place Richard’s birth in 161 3 and Robert’s in 1602. Thus they might 
easily be the sons of Richard and Elizabeth Bendy Lee. 

According to the College of Heralds, Richard Lee, father of Richard 
Lee of Virginia, was one of the eight sons of John Lee of Coton, Shrop- 
shire, and Joyce Romney, his wife. 3 The record of his baptism at Alveley, 
Shropshire, is dated October 6, 1563; that of his marriage to Elizabeth 
Bendy, also at Alveley, bears the date October 21, 1599. He owned a 
farm in Shropshire called Nordley Regis, part of the original manor of 
Coton, but shortly after his marriage, says the Shropshire genealogist, 
H. Edward Forrest, Lee bought another farm at Stratford-Langthorne in 
Essex and went there to live. 

Documents preserved in the courthouses of York and Gloucester 
counties in Virginia mention Richard and Robert Lee jointly and show 
grants of land in which they both figure. A patent was granted to Robert 
Lee for 540 acres in Gloucester County: "Beginning at a red oak by Mr. 
Thornton’s path and to a white oak by Colonel Lee’s Horse Path and to 
a branch by the said Robert Lee’s plantation; 200 acres thereof formerly 
granted to Colonel Richard Lee, on the 17th of May, 1655, and by him 
assigned to the said Robert Lee, on the 5th of February, 1657, and the 
remaining 340 acres for the transportation of seven persons, &C.” 

The family tradition referred to in Lee of Virginia is that Richard 
Lee’s brother was dissatisfied and returned to England. For whatever 
reason he makes no further appearance in surviving records. 

If the Richard Lee of the 1635 license be identified as the Virginia 
ancestor of the Stratford Lees, he may have been in this country several 
years before his clerkship in 1641. From this date on, however, there is 

'See Supplementary Records, I : Ancestors of the Lee of Shropshire. 


no more obscurity or uncertainty about the Richard Lee who became the 
founder of the Lee family of this record. Of the many other Lees, possi- 
bly relatives, possibly not, who also settled in York and Gloucester 
counties at this same period, but little is known. 

Richard Lee’s first home in Virginia was on Gloucester Point opposite 
the early settlement which later became Yorktown. According to the 
family records, he lived there after his arrival in the Colony. His first 
grant of land was in another locality of Gloucester County. This was a 
plantation of one thousand acres granted to Lee, August 10, 1642, by 
Captain Sir William Berkeley, then Governor of Virginia, "being due 
unto him (Richard Lee Gent,) for his owne p’sonal Adventure his wife 
Anne and John Francis and by assignment from Mr. Thomas Hill, 
Florentine Paine and Wm. Freeman of their right of land for the 
Transportation of Seaventeen p’sons.” 

The enchanting beauty of this part of Virginia moved him to name 
his plantation Paradise. Here he built the store and tobacco warehouses 
mentioned in early chronicles of Gloucester, oldest of the counties on 
the peninsula between the York and Rappahannock rivers. Lee con- 
tinued to obtain grants to other lands northward in Lancaster, Northum- 
berland, and later in Westmoreland and Fairfax, the frontier regions 
of the Potomac. Among the lands he patented were those later acquired 
by the Washingtons, a part of which formed the original tract of what 
later became the Mount Vernon estate. Colonel Lee named his plan- 
tation at Dividing Creek in Northumberland County, Cobbs Hall. 

Like many other planters, he engaged in commerce. He had an interest 
in two vessels, Elizabeth and Mary, plying between England and Vir- 
ginia. By the year 1659 Colonel Lee had "a faire estate in Virginia,’’ ac- 
cording to John Gibbon, 4 who visited him and records: "The product of 
his Tobacco amounted to £2000 per annum.” This, added to the annual 
rent of 800 pounds he received from his Stratford estate in England, 
placed him among the affluent planters of the Colony. 

From the minor office of court clerk he rose rapidly in political posi- 
tion in the Colony. By December of the same year in which he served as 
clerk of court he was clerk of the Council. Later he became high sheriff 
of York County and Burgess from York. From 1643 to 1649 he was also 
serving as Attorney General of Virginia, being the first of whom there 
is record to hold this office. In 1649 Lee became Secretary of State and 
eleven years later a member of the Council. 

‘Member of the College of Heralds ; father of Gibbon the historian. 



Richard Lee is described by his great-grandson, William Lee, as "a 
man of good stature, comely visage, an enterprising genius, a sound 
head, vigorous spirit and generous nature.” 

Colonel Lee’s association with Governor Berkeley was always close. 
In 1649, when the grim news of the beheading of Charles the First 
reached Jamestown, Lee, as Secretary of State, was evidently appointed 
bv Governor Berkeley to deliver an invitation to Charles the Second 
to come to Virginia. This interesting voyage is spoken of by John Gib- 
bon, who left this record in his Introductio Ad Latinam Blasoniam: 

"A great part of Anno 1659, till February the year following, I lived 
in Virginia, being most hospitably entertained by the Flonourable Col- 
lonel Richard Lee, some time Secretary of State there; and who after the 
King’s martyrdom hired a Dutch vessel, freighted her himself, went to 
Brussels, surrendered up Sir William Barcklaies old commission (for 
the Government of that Province) and received a new one from his 
present Majesty (a loyal action and deserving my commemoration).” 
In reference to Virginia’s invitation to Charles the Second and its 
reception by his Majesty, John Esten Cooke says: 

The great body of the Virginia population was unquestionably Cavalier fin 
sympathy], and the restoration of the royal authority in England was accom- 
panied by its restoration in Virginia; but the latter did not precede the former. 
There is no doubt whatever that if the Virginians could have restored the King 
earlier they would have done so; and Berkeley, who is known to have been 
in close communication and consultation with the leading Cavaliers, had sent 
word to Charles II in Holland, toward the end of the Commonwealth, that he 
would raise his flag in Virginia if there was a prospect of success. This incident 
has been called in question. It is testified to by William Lee, Sheriff of London, 

. . . [a great-grandson] of Richard Lee, Berkeley’s emissary, as a fact 

within his knowledge. Charles declined the offer, but was always grateful to 
the Virginians. The country is said to have derived from the incident its name 
of the 'Old Dominion,” where the King was King, or might have been, before 
he was King in England; and the motto of the old Virginia shield, "En dat 
Virginia quartam,” in allusion to England, Scotland, Ireland, and Virginia, is 
supposed to have also originated at this time. 

Although he was an ardent Loyalist, Colonel Richard Lee did not 
hesitate to oppose certain policies of Charles II which he held to be dis- 
advantageous to Virginia. In the British Museum is a copy of the Vir- 
ginia Remonstrance (March 28, 1663) against the King’s granting lands 
in the Northern Neck to some of his favorite lords, which Lee signed 
with Berkeley, Francis Moryson, Thomas Ludwell, Nathaniel Bacon, 
John Carter, Theodore [Theodorick] Bland, Henry Corbvn, and others. 



IF ood carving of Lee Arms on the door of 
old Cobbs Hall, home of the first Rich 
ard Lee. 



Colonel Lee had a family of six sons and two daughters. The sons he 
placed at school or college in England. At one time his entire family 
appear to have lived there, and Richard made frequent voyages back 
and forth from Virginia. His last voyage was in 1663, when he made his 
will. Returning to Virginia, he died at Cobbs Hall March 1, 1664, and 
was buried there. 

Proof of the immediate locality in England from which the emigrant 
Richard came is found in his will: . .1, Colonel Richard Lee, of 

Virginia, and lately of Stratford Langton, in the County of Essex, 
Esquire ...” This estate he ordered to be sold immediately after his 
death and improvements made on his Virginia plantations from the pro- 
ceeds of the sale. "Also my will and earnest desire is that my good 
friends will with all convenient speed cause my wife and children . . . 
to be transported to Virginia.” 

Further reference to Colonel Lee’s English home appears in a court 
document dated some nine years later "executed by Thomas Youell of 
Nominy in Westmoreland and Anne Youell, wife of Ye s^ Thomas, 
one of ye daughters of Coll: RiclH Lee late of Stratford Langthorn in 
Ye Co: of Essex deceased: Deed of release unto John Lee dated 23d 
June, 1673, in which they relinquish all claim to any share in the estate 
of Colonel Richard Lee.” 

Lee’s Stratford estate in England which was sold was originally a part 
of the demesne lands of the ancient manor of Westham, site of the 
Abbey of Stratford-Langthorne"’ (which had been founded in 1135, and 
dissolved in 1539). 

Westham Manor, or parish, was divided into four wards, of which 
Stratford-Langthorne was one. Stratford itself was divided into the 
Grove, Angel Lane, and Maryland Point, a part of Stratford Green. 
Situated in the Grove was an old mansion called Stratford House." 
While this ancient house itself is not specifically mentioned in any record 
as having been the estate purchased by Richard Lee of Shropshire for his 
new home in Essex, it might readily have been so. It was evidently the 
one prominent dwelling in Stratford-Langthorne. 

The designation of Maryland Point in Stratford-Langthorne is not 
without its significance: "[This] is a cluster of Houses near Stratford: 
the first of them were erected by a Merchant who had got fortune in 

'See Supplementary Records, II : Stratford-Langthorne. 

'The ancient dwelling, Stratford House, became the residence of Sir John Henniker, baronet, 
in the year 1765, a little over a hundred years after Richard Lee of Virginia ordered his estate 
of Stratford sold. This is the ownership to which it is chiefly ascribed in published references. 


that colony, from whence they took their name.” Might not this have 
referred to Richard Lee of Virginia? He patented lands in the province 
of Maryland as well as in Virginia. It is an interesting point. 

Further research into the annals of Westham Manor may prove that 
this original Stratford House was the birthplace of the founder of the 
Lees of Virginia. There must have been some very close association and 
endearing memories in the Lee family of Virginia with Stratford House 
in England, for Thomas, the grandson of Richard Lee, took the name 
for his home on Potomac. 


The Honorable Philip Ludwell, Esquire, was "the immediate Vice- 
regent and Representative of the King, in ordinary and extraordinary,” 
to use the words of Thomas Jefferson. 7 This characterization evidently 
referred to the period when he was serving as Proprietary Governor of 
the Carolinas. He emigrated from England to Virginia about 1660 and 
took a leading part in the affairs of government. His term of official 
service for Virginia embraced fifty years. 

The wealth and power of his eldest brother Thomas, who had come 
to the Colony some years before, doubtless had its influence in opening 
opportunities for Philip. Thomas was serving as Secretary of State when 
his younger brother arrived, and was later President of the Council. 
His plantation, Rich Neck, adjoined Governor Berkeley’s estate, Green 
Spring, a Tudor mansion known as the Castle, according to a memo- 
randum of Thomas Lee Shippen. From this first great house in the 
American colonies, built in 1646, were derived several of the archi- 
tectural features of Stratford Hall, built over three generations later. 

Not only were Thomas Ludwell and Governor Berkeley friends, 
neighbors and political associates — reactionaries from Nathaniel Bacon’s 
point of view — but they had the bond of a still earlier association. Both 
came from the same place in England, Bruton Parish, Somersetshire. 
Historic Bruton Church in Williamsburg perpetuates the name. "There 
can be no doubt,” says Meade in Old Churches, Ministers and Families 
of Virginia, "but that the name Bruton was given to the parish in 
honour of Thomas Ludwell, who came from a place of that name in 
England. Originally the parish was called Middletowne, when, in 1658, 
the inhabitants of Middle Plantation (Williamsburg) and of Harop 
Parish (between it and Warwick) were united into one.” 

The genesis of the Ludwells in England has points of historic interest, 

v See Supplementary Records, III : Ludwell. 

Sir William Berkeley, Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia: from the original por- 
trait by an unknown artist, now in the possession of Maurice duPont Lee, Green- 
wich, Connecticut . (After 1730 this portrait hung in Stratford Hall.) 

Mrs. Philip Ludwell, Lady Berkeley (Frances Culpeper ) , widow of Sir William Berkeley: 
from the original portrait by an unknown artist, now in the possession of Maurice 
duPont Lee, Greenwich, Connecticut. (After 1730 this portrait hung in Stratford 


owing to their family’s connection with the Cavalier family of Cotting- 
ton. According to Lee of Virginia, the Ludwells were of German 
origin. William G. Stanard says they were mercers by trade and settled 
in Somersetshire during the early seventeenth century. The English 
progenitor of their family married Jane Cottington, daughter of an 
ancient and honorable house of Bruton. A kinsman of this family was 
the diplomat and statesman, Baron Francis Cottington, whose tomb is 
in Westminster Abbey. In 1643 he was Lord Treasurer of England. Un- 
doubtedly this connection was of service in the new world to Thomas 
and Philip Ludwell. 

Thomas Ludwell never married, but Philip was twice married. His 
first marriage, about 1667, was to Lucy, daughter of the "valiant Cap- 
tain” Robert Higginson. Of this marriage were born his son Philip, and 
his only daughter, named for his mother, Jane Cottington. An interest- 
ing relationship with a famous American family developed through the 
marriage of this daughter to Colonel Daniel Parke, Junior, by which 
she became the ancestress of Nelly Custis and of George Washington 
Parke Custis, the builder of Arlington. 

Philip Ludwell’s first wife died about 1675. This is the time, in the 
Lee family records, that he moved from his first house, Carter’s Creek 
Plantation, to Jamestown. In 1680 Ludwell married Lady Berkeley, 
widow of Governor Berkeley. Through this marriage he eventually be- 
came the owner of Green Spring Plantation. 

From his portrait, which hung at Stratford for many years, Philip 
Ludwell was evidently a fine figure. Tall, slender, and distinguished, he 
was a man of affairs and a born diplomat. It is apparent that he was 
astute, sharp as a briar in the reading of men and events, and resolute 
in carrying out his objectives. The year after his marriage, Colonel Lud- 
well and his lady went to England. Through Lord Culpeper, then 
Royal Governor of Virginia and one of his wife’s kinsmen, Ludwell 
was appointed to the Council to succeed Colonel Daniel Parke, who had 
recently died. 

Several years later Ludwell was again in England as an emissary from 
Virginia to protest against Lord Effingham’s exactions. He delivered 
his petition from the "Commons of Virginia represented by the House 
of Burgesses” on March 28, 1689, and was successful in obtaining practi- 
cally all of the measures asked for. For his services he received from the 
House of Burgesses a vote of thanks for "his indefatigable and prosper- 
ous endeavours,” together with two hundred and fifty pounds sterling 


to be paid him as an acknowledgment from the country and reimburse- 
ment of his great and necessary expenses. At the same time, he was ap- 
pointed Governor of Carolina and held office there three years, appar- 
ently bringing to that disturbed Colony a period of comparative peace. 
In 1690 he was appointed Lord Culpeper's agent for the Northern Neck, 
so that his power and prestige were further increased. Three years later 
he was made Proprietary Governor of the Carolinas, but a year’s experi- 
ence of their quarrels made him glad to return in 1694 to Virginia. 

Of the service given to Virginia by the Ludwells, Bruce says in his 
Institutional History of Virginia: 

Thomas Ludwell always a loyal supporter of the royal cause, was promoted 
to the place in March, 1 660-1, and continued to hold the office, apparently 
without interruption, until September, 1676, when he seems to have been 
reappointed, but only filled the position for a short time, as Daniel Parke soon 
became Secretary by the nomination of Governor Jeffreys. Parke was followed 
by Philip Ludwell; and Ludwell by Nicholas Spencer. These three men were 
amongst the most conspicuous citizens of Virginia, whether considered from 
the point of view of influential family connections, large wealth, or important 
public services. 

Henry Corbin, founder of the Virginia Corbins, was prominent as a 
planter and in the colonial government at Jamestown. His home in 
England was in Warwickshire. In 1645 he married Alice, daughter of 
Richard Eltonhead of County Lancaster, England. Like Richard Lee he 
settled in Virginia during the middle part of the seventeenth century. 
He was serving as Burgess from Lancaster County as early as 1659. 
Genealogical records of the families Corbin and Lee show an interesting 
family connection in England. As far back as the middle of the fifteenth 
century, there was a marriage between Johnannes Lee of Nordley, one 
of the ancestors of the Lees, and Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of 
Thomas Corbyn. In Virginia this family relationship was repeated with 
the marriage of Henry Corbin’s daughter Laetitia to the second Richard 
Lee. A younger daughter, Frances, became the wife of Edmund Jen- 
ings. The succeeding generations marked several other alliances be- 
tween Corbins and Lees of interest in this relation. 

Of Benjamin Harrison, representing Surry, it is recorded on his tomb 
at Brandon on the James River, that he "was always loyall to his Prince, 
and a great benefactor to his country.” He was a just man and a kind 
one. Record of his charity and personal force has survived nearly three 
centuries. Benjamin Harrison succeeded his father in the House of Bur- 
gesses, in 1680, at Jamestown. He was Virginia’s Attorney General in 

Conjectural restoration of ancient buildings at Jamestown, Virginia, on the foundations 
reputed by Samuel H. Yonge to be the site of the fourth Stale House, Philip Lud- 
we/l's three houses, and the country house. 

1699. Before the turn of the century he was appointed a member of the 
Council and remained a member until his death in 1712. His father, 
Benjamin Harrison, founder of the family in Virginia, served as clerk 
of the Council in 1633, and at that time he took up various small grants 
of land on the south side of the James River. From a portion of his 
land the famous Brandon estate was formed, the remainder being pur- 
chased from the English owners by his descendant, Nathaniel Harrison. 
Through his granddaughter, Hannah Ludwell, who became the wife 
of Thomas Lee and mother of the famous Lees, were handed down cer- 
tain qualities of character and nobility of thought and act that dis- 
tinguished the Harrison strain, and made them loved and respected 
among the ancient planters of the James River. 

That Theodorick Bland of Westover, "was both in fortune and un- 
derstanding inferior to no person of his time in the country” is a state- 
ment quoted in Lee of Virginia. Colonel Bland was one of four brothers, 
sons of John Bland of London, to emigrate to Virginia. He came bv 
rather slow and picturesque stages, being first a merchant in Spain and 
then in the Canary Islands, not reaching Virginia until 1653. He pur- 
chased the great estate of Westover and made it his home. In 1659-60 
Colonel Bland was speaker of the House of Burgesses and in 1666 a 
member of the Council. Through his marriage to Anne, daughter of 
Richard Bennett, he became allied to one of the most prominent and 
influential families of the Colony. When their son Richard’s daughter, 
Mary (of Jordan’s Point on James River), became the wife of Henry, 
Richard Lee’s son, important strains of the old colonials were mingled. 

Edmund Jenings was the Old Stander of this group who represented 
York at James City. He was a member of one of the Cavalier fami- 
lies of whom Beverley says: "Thus in the time of the Rebellion in 
England, several good Cavalier Families went thither [to Virginia] with 

[ 17 ] 


their Effects, to escape the Tyranny of the Usurper, or Acknowledgement 
of his Title. And so again, upon the Restoration, many People of the 
opposite Party took Refuge there, to shelter themselves from the King’s 
Resentment. But Virginia had not many of these last, because that 
Country was famous for holding out the longest for the Royal Family, 
of any of the English Dominions.” 

Edmund Jenings was born at Ripon, Yorkshire, England in 1659, 
the son of Sir Edmund Jenings, and his wife, Margaret, daughter of 
Sir Edward Barkham, Lord Mayor of London in 1621-22. He came to 
Virginia at an early age, served as Attorney General in 1684, and in 1701 
was appointed to the Council of which he became president. He was 
twice Secretary of State, and from August, 1706, to June, 1710, was 
acting governor. Through his marriage into the Corbin family (to 
Frances, sister of Laetitia, wife of his friend the second Richard Lee) he 
had a daughter, Frances, who became the wife of Charles Grymes of 
Morattico Hall, Richmond County. Their daughter, Lucy Grymes, ac- 
cording to a tradition (vouched for by George Washington Parke 
Custis, adopted son of George Washington) was "the Lowland Beauty” 
of Washington’s youthful verses. She married the son of Henry and 
Mary [Bland] Lee, and became the mother of Light-Horse Harry Lee 
and his four brothers, all distinguished figures in the history of the 
Commonwealth. These names, Lucy Grymes Lee and Edmund Jenings 
Lee, occur frequently in succeeding generations of the Lee family. 


The second Richard Lee, while Virginia born, was English bred. 
Devoted to scholarly pursuits, he was not enthralled, as his father was, 
with life in the wilderness. Born probably at the Gloucester plantation, 
Paradise, in 1647 he was sent with his brother John to school in England. 
There is a family tradition that he entered Oxford at an early age. "He 
was so clever,” said his grandson [William], "that some great men of- 
fered to promote him to the highest dignities in the Church if his Father 
would let him stay in England; but this offer was refused, as the old 
Gentleman was determined to fix all his children in Virginia. . . . Rich- 
ard spent almost his whole life in study, and usually wrote his notes in 
Greek, Hebrew, or Latin ... so that he neither diminished nor im- 
proved his paternal estate. . . . He was of the Council in Virginia and 
also other offices of honor and profit, though they yielded little to him.” 

After his return to Virginia he became, like his father, a Loyalist and 


a supporter of the House of Stuart. But where the first Richard Lee 
was zealous in the Loyalist cause, his son appears by comparison to have 
been more or less passive. He was, first and last, a man of books — mili- 
tary man, planter and Burgess perhaps more by reason of destiny 
than of choice. His collection of books at Matholic was one of the 
few celebrated libraries of colonial Virginia. While it was not large, it 
contained a more complete collection of the classics than any library in 
the new world. 

Richard Lee succeeded his father in the Council just as his friend the 
second Philip Ludwell succeeded his. He represented Westmoreland 
where his father had represented Gloucester and Northumberland. "Of 
Cople” or "of Matholic” was usually written after his name, as designat- 
ing the locality from which he came. Cople was one of the two parishes 
of Westmoreland County, where he now lived. Matholic, also known as 
Mt. Pleasant, was a plantation of 2,600 acres his father had patented and 
which eventually came to him. It was one of many plantations left the 
family by his father. His marriage to Henry Corbin’s daughter Laetitia 
took place about 1674. 

Some three or four years later, when, as a member of the Council, 
Lee opposed the measures advocated by Nathaniel Bacon, he was seized 
by Bacon’s men and imprisoned. A report to the English government 
(under date of the 15th of March, 1677-8) of those who had suffered 
by Bacon’s rebellion, states: "Major Richard Lee, a Loyall Discreet 
Person worthy of the Place to which hee was lately advanced of being 
one of his Majesties Council in Virginia, and as to his loses wee are 
credibly informed they were very great and that hee was Imprisoned by 
Bacon above seaven weekes together at least 100 miles from his owne 
home whereby hee received great Prejudice in his health by hard usage 
and very greatly in his whole Estate by his absence.” 

Richard Lee seems to have held important posts continually from 
about 1678 to his death. Governor Spotswood described him as "a 
gentleman of as fair character as any in the country for his exact justice, 
honesty and unexceptional loyalty. In all the stations wherein he has 
served in this government, he has behaved himself with great integrity 
and sufficiency.” Beverley also refers to his effective services and his high 
standing, especially in connection with certain of the complications 
arising in October, 1688, out of the patent for the Northern Neck. 

Richard Lee’s name appears as colonel for both Westmoreland and 
Richmond in a list of the principal officers of militia appointed in 1680 


and again in 1699- Among those appointed on this last date for their 
respective counties were his colleagues of the Council or House of Bur- 
gesses: Philip Ludweli, Edmund Jenings, Robert Carter, George Mason, 
and John Custis. 8 He is spoken of as "Coll: Richard Lee, of the Horse 
in ye counties of Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Stafford.’’ He 
was appointed "Naval Officer and Receiver of Virginia Dutys for the 
River Potomac," in 1699 by Sir Edmund Andros, governor. 

He died in 1714 at Matholic, and was buried in the family burial 
ground in the garden — named fifteen years later, when the house burned 
down, Burnt House Fields. The grave of his wife is beside his. Bishop 
Meade visited Matholic and wrote in his Old Churches, Ministers and 
Families of Virginia: "From a tombstone in the Burnt-House Fields, 
at Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, where are yet to be seen the 
foundations of large buildings, are the following: 

Hie conditur corpus Richardi Lee, Armigeri, nati in Virginia, filii Richardi 
Lee, generosi, et antiqua familia, in Merton-Regis, in comitatu Salopiensi, 

In magistratum obeundo boni publici studiosissimi, in literis Graecis et 
Latinis et aliis humanioris literaturae disciplinis versatissimi. 

Deo, quem, summa observantia semper coluit, animam tranquillus reddidit 
xii. mo. die Martii, anno MDCCXIV. aetat. LXVIII.” 

Hie, juxta, situm est corpus Laetitiae ejusdem uxoris fidae, filiae Henrici 
Corbyn, generosi, liberorum, matris amantissimae, pietate erga Deum, charitate 
erga egenos, benignitate erga omnes insignis. Obiit Octob die vi. MDCCVL 
aetatis XLIX. 

Here lieth the body of Richard Lee, Esq., born in Virginia, son of Richard 
Lee, Gentleman, descended of an ancient family of Merton-Regis, in Shropshire. 

While he exercised the office of a magistrate he was a zealous promoter of 
the public good. He was very skilful in the Greek and Latin languages and 
other parts of polite learning. He quietly resigned his soul to God, whom he 
always devoutly worshipped, on the 12th day of March, in the year 1714, in 
the 68th year of his age. 

Near by is interred the body of Laetitia, his faithful wife, daughter of Henry 
Corbyn, Gentleman. A most affectionate mother, she was also distinguished by 
piety toward God, charity to the poor, and kindness to all. She died on the 6th 
day of October, 1706, in the 49th year of her age. 

Like the second Richard Lee, the second Philip Ludweli also became 
a leading figure in the colonial life of Virginia. From his portrait by 
Sir Godfrey Kneller, he appears to have resembled his mother, Lucy 
Higginson. He does not seem so sharp or astute as his father, perhaps, 
but more friendly and approachable. He succeeded his father in a num- 

*Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Colonial Series, 1699. 

The second Philip Ludwell, grandfather of the Stratford Lees: from the original portrait 
by Sir Godfrey Kneller. 


ber of his official positions. In 1695 he represented James City County 
as Burgess and in 1702 became a councillor to Queen Anne. Altogether 
he gave about twenty-five years’ official service to the Colony. On No- 
vember 11, 1687, he married Hannah, daughter of his father’s friend 
and fellow councillor, the Honorable Benjamin Harrison, Esquire, of 
Surry. That Hannah Harrison "was very pretty” is a family note sur- 
viving over two centuries. Also, that she was "pious, charitable, and hos- 
pitable,” and that she lived "an exemplary life in chearful innocence.” 

Philip and Hannah Ludwell established their first home at Rich Neck, 
the plantation originally belonging to his celebrated uncle Thomas. A 
portion of the original Ludwell properties, directly across Archer’s 
Creek on the west side, had been sold some years before, and here in 
1692, Beverley says: "The College was founded by their late Majesties, 
King William and Queen Mary of happy Memory.” 

At Rich Neck, according to the record in Lee of Virginia, "on the 
5th day of December, anno Dom. 1701, being fryday, about nine of the 
clock at night ...” was born to Philip and Hannah (Harrison) 
Ludwell, their daughter Hannah. She was destined to become through 
her marriage to Thomas Lee the mother of the Stratford Lees. When 
Hannah was three or four years old the Ludwells moved to their Green 
Spring Plantation, the old Castle, built by Governor Berkeley in 1646. 
This was to be their home for the rest of their lives, and their children’s 
after them, both Ludwells and Lees, for one hundred and twenty-five 

The second Philip Ludwell was affiliated with the college then being 
built on lands once belonging to his family. In 1705, and in 1716, he 
was a Visitor of the College of William and Mary. His family was con- 
nected with that of the founder of the college through the marriage of 
his sister-in-law, Sarah Harrison, to Commissary Blair. In the year 1710, 
Philip Ludwell was appointed by Governor Alexander Spotswood, Dep- 
uty Auditor General for the Colony. His commission reads in part: 

. .1 therefore reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, 
prudence and fidelity, do . . . constitute . . . you . . . Deputy Auditor 
of her Majesty’s revenues. . . . Given under my hand and seal of the 
Colony this 14th Day of May, 1710, in the 10th year of her Majestv’s 
reign. . . In this capacity he represented Virginia with Nathaniel 
Harrison, his brother-in-law, on the commission to settle the boundarv 
between Virginia and North Carolina. 




The Ludwell lands formed a large part of James City County. In- 
cluded in these holdings were grants on Jamestown Island, properties 
within and without the corporate limits of Williamsburg, and the great 
plantations of Rich Neck, Chippokes, and Green Spring. To the second 
Philip Ludwell descended the combined properties of Thomas and the 
first Philip, and all of the Berkeley estates on both sides of the river 
James. The Ludwell grandfather of the Stratford Lees was thus one of 
the largest landholders in the James River region. 

The lands of the Lees, 16,000 acres in all, lay farther to the north and 
east, on the peninsulas between the York, Rappahannock and Potomac 
rivers, and were washed by these long tidal reaches of the Chesapeake 
Bay, which made the road to England much nearer for the Lees than for 
the planters of Surry and James City Counties. Here were the Lee homes, 
tobacco plantations, warehouses, storehouses, mills, and shipyards. The 
holdings of the Lees and Ludwells contained larger tracts of land than 
those of most of their contemporaries. Together, they comprised a small 

As the Lees and Ludwells worked for many a year in the first English 
settlement on the North American continent, so here at this day lie their 
dead. In the churchyard of the first Anglican church in the new world 
are the graves of the grandparents of the Stratford Lees, Philip Ludwell, 
and Hannah Harrison, his wife. These inscriptions are written on their 

Here lies interred the body of PHILIP LLJDWELL 
who died the 11th of January 1726 in the 34th year of 
his age, sometime auditor of his Majesty’s revenue 
and twenty-five years member of the Council. 

Under this Stone lies interred 
The Body of 

Relict of 

The Hon. Philip Ludwell, Esq., 

By whom She has left 

After a most Exemplary Life 
Spent in chearful Innocence 

And The continual Exercise of 

Piety Charity and Hospitality 
She Patiently Submitted to 
Death on the 4th Day of April 1731 in the 52(1 
Year of Her Age. 


Close by, surmounted with the Ludwell arms, is the gravestone of 
Lady Frances Berkeley, who was Philip Ludwell’s foster mother from 
his earliest childhood. Not far from the graves of Philip Ludwell and 
Hannah is that of their grandson, William Lee of Stratford Hall, later of 
Green Spring. His daughter Cornelia has recorded his death in these 
words: ''Greenspring, Virginia, Saturday, 27 June, 1795, at 20 minutes 
after six in the afternoon, my dearest Father was taken from this turbu- 
lent and mortal state, after a lingering Illness of ten months, aet. 55 years 
9 months and 27 days. On the 28th June at 6 o’clock the precious remains 
were interred in James Town Church Yard at the south end of the 
graves of my Great Grandfather and Grandmother Ludwell.” 

The broken rail fence surrounding the ancient churchyard was torn 
down by William Lee’s son, William Ludwell Lee, and John Ambler, 
who put up in its place a solid wall, made of fallen brick from the long 
deserted church, then fast going into ruin. William Ludwell Lee sur- 
vived his father only eight years. He died on the twenty-fourth of Janu- 
ary, 1803, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, and was buried beside 
his father. In his will he said: "I desire that my body may be committed 
to the earth near the grave of my dear respected father in the church 
yard at James Town. The spot where I wish to be interred is designated 
by two pegs of Sycamore on the south side of the grave of my late 

Thus in the churchyard on Jamestown Island and in Burnt House 
Fields of Westmoreland lie the dead of these ancient American families, 
who for nearly three centuries meant so much to the Colony of Virginia, 
the State and to the Republic. Their records are more closely knit with 
those of latter day Jamestown and eighteenth century Williamsburg than 
are those of any other colonial family. Here they made their laws, built 
up their properties, and made their marriages. All the first influences, 
associations, "native parts” of the various strains that bred the Stratford 
Lees met and mingled here — Lee and Ludwell, Corbin, Harrison, Bland, 
and Jenings. In every sense here was their provenance. 


H ][ SHOMAS LEE was truly a Virginian, in a sense the first of his 
family to be so. His grandfather had been born in England and, 
although his father was a native Virginian, he was in spirit always 
an Englishman. But Thomas was identified with the Colony, its people 
and its interests, from the time he was a very young man. Resourceful, 
independent, adventurous, and far-seeing, he made a position for him- 
self in the remote region of the Northern Neck before he was twenty- 
one years old. The fourth son of Richard and Laetitia Lee of Cople 
Parish, County of Westmoreland, he was born in 1690 at Matholic, the 
house built by his father on lands patented forty years before by the first 
Richard Lee. Matholic Plantation was the first of the Lee houses in 
Westmoreland and adjoined the Corbin plantation, Peckatone. 

Thomas Lee’s son William wrote of him: ”... with none but a com- 
mon Virginia Education, yet having strong natural parts, long after he 
was a man, he learned the Languages without any assistance but his own 
genius, and became a tolerable adept in Greek and Latin.” 

The treasures of his father’s rare library at Matholic must have af- 
forded him much pleasure throughout his entire youth. Here were the 
classics his father read: Aristotle, Epictetus, Hippocrates, Homer, Thu- 
cydides, Xenophon, Hisop, Cesar, Diogenes, Ovid, Virgil — some of 
which Thomas also learned to read in the original. There was a collec- 
tion of Francis Bacon’s works; a folio of annals of the world, a little 
description of the great world, Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the 
World, a Treatise of Famous Places, the Annals of Queen Ann. A corn- 
pleat book of Sea laws in four volumes, Wing’s art of Surveying, and 
Kebb’s fustice of peace, were probably his texts, for in addition to the 
languages which he learned, Thomas Lee acquired enough knowl- 
edge of the law to serve as justice of the peace and as agent for the most 
important estate of the Colony. 

In 1711, when only twenty-one, he received the coveted appointment 
of resident agent for the Northern Neck, the office held in the late seven- 
teenth century by the first Philip Ludwell. Lee succeeded no less a man 
than Robert Carter of Corotoman, termed bv Beverley "the greatest 
Freeholder in that Proprietary.” 

Lady Fairfax, widow of Lord Fairfax, Proprietor of the Northern 
Neck, came into possession of this territory after her husband’s death. 
The thickly wooded peninsula between the tidal rivers Potomac and 

[ 25 ] 


Rappahannock was a part of this domain. The appointment of young 
Lee to take charge of Lady Fairfax’s complicated interests in the Colony 
is recorded in Westmoreland Courthouse: 

Dec. 7, 1711. Lady Fairfax letter of Atty. to Mr. Lee: Tenth year of the reign 
of Queen Ann &c. — Before Wm. Scorey Notary publick in London &c. — ap- 
peared Honble Catherine Lady Fairfax of Leeds Castle in County of Kent, relict 
of Honble Thomas Lord Fairfax, Baron Camaroon in part of Great Britian 
called Scotland — revoking a letter of Attorney by her given to Coll. Robert 
Carter of Virginia &c. — Doth now constitute Thomas Lee of the County of 
Westmoreland in Virginia, Merchant her true and lawful Attorney — Given 
unto him full power and authority for and in the name and to the use of the 
sd. constituant — to recover and receive all such quit rents and arrears of quit 
rents &c. as she is Lady proprietor of the five Counties of the Northern Neck 

She Hereby promising to hold and ratify for good and valid whatsoever her 
sd. Atty. or his substitute shall lawfully doe &c. 

Wit: Thomas Jones, 

Sam'l Richardson, 

Recorded Aug. 27, 1712. 

Lee’s appointment was secured through the influence of his uncle, 
Thomas Corbin, a tobacco merchant in London, who recommended his 
enterprising nephew for the post. Their kinsman, Edmund Jenings, was 
the nominal agent, but Thomas Lee, doing the actual work, had com- 
plete authority and established his business office at Matholic. 

In 1713 Thomas Lee succeeded his father as Naval Officer of the 
south side of the Potomac, another remunerative colonial office. A con- 
siderable profit pertained to this position, arising, as Beverley says: 

From large Fees, upon the entring and clearing of all Shipes and Vessels. . . . 

The Naval Officers other Profits, are ten per Cent, for all Moneys by them 
received; both on the two Shillings per Hogshead, Port-Duties, Skins and Furs, 
and also on the new Imposts on Servants and Liquors, when such Duty is in 

In giving such a lucrative and much coveted appointment to young 
Thomas Lee, Governor Spotswood said: "When his [Richard Lee’s] 
advanced age would no longer permit him to execute to his own satis- 
faction the duty of Naval Officer of the same district, I thought I could 
not better reward his merit than by bestowing that employment on his 
son.” Colonel Richard Lee died the following year. 

Thomas Lee’s duties as naval officer and as resident agent for the 
"Lady Proprietor” of the Northern Neck, necessitated a wide and exact 
geographical knowledge of the country as well as a specific acquaint- 
ance with the agricultural and industrial conditions of the community. 

These wooded palisades of Stratford on Potomac have a rugged grandeur and mystic 
loveliness. In the days of the early Lees eagles nested there. 


He inherited from his grandfather the urge to explore and to learn 
about new places. Undoubtedly he knew every plantation, every corner, 
every landmark of the several counties comprising the Northern Neck 
long before he traversed "the upper country” of Virginia or explored 
the Potomac from its mouth to the Great Falls and beyond. 

There is one place in Westmoreland County near Indian Tree, some 
miles across country from Matholic, that has the rugged grandeur 
and mystic loveliness of the Great Falls region and the Virginia hill 
country, with the added beauty of an inland sea. For there the Potomac 
enters the long reaches of Chesapeake Bay, at least twenty miles above 
what is geographically termed the river’s mouth. On the Virginia shores, 
high bluffs rise sheer out of the broad run of the salt waters. These thick- 
ly wooded palisades of the Potomac extend for several miles between 
Pope’s Creek and Currioman Bay. In the days of the early Lees 
eagles nested there. More picturesque and romantic than any other 
spot on the lower Potomac, the Clifts Plantation seems to have been the 
one place young Thomas Lee desired for his home. 

At his father’s death, Matholic had been left to Thomas Lee’s eldest 
brother, Richard. By the terms of the will, Thomas received "all my 
lands in the county of Northumberland at or near the dividing creeks,” 
as well as lands in the Province of Maryland adjoining those left to his 
brother Philip. The lands in Northumberland, like Matholic, were a 
level plain but a few feet above high tide, of one pattern, it seemed, 
with the waters surrounding them. To many of the first colonists of the 
Tidewater section, all Virginia must have appeared so: "Some People 
that have been in the Country,” says Robert Beverley, "without knowing 
any thing of it, have affirm’d, that it is all a Flat, without any Mixture 
of Hills, because they see the Coast to Seaward perfectly level: Or else 
they have made their Judgment of the whole Country, by the Lands lying 
on the lower Parts of the Rivers (which, perhaps, they had never been 
beyond) and so conclude it to be throughout plain and even. When in 
truth, upon the Heads of the great Rivers, there are vast high Hills; and 
even among the Settlements, there are some so topping, that I have stood 
upon them, and view’d the Country all round over the Tops of the high- 
est Trees, for many Leagues together; particularly, there are Maivborn 
Hills in the Freshes of ]ames River; a Ridge of Hills about fourteen or 
fifteen Miles up Alattapony River; Tolivers Mount, upon Rappahannock 
River; and the Ridge of Hills in Stafford County, in the Freshes of 
Patowmeck River.” 



In this category Thomas Lee would have put the Clifts. This was the 
name given the beautiful plantation by its first owner, Lieutenant Colo- 
nel Nathaniel Pope, whose daughter Ann became the wife of John 
Washington and the ancestress of George Washington. 

The original grant for the Clifts shows that one thousand and fifty 
acres upon "ye south side of Potomac” were given and granted to Na- 
thaniel Pope, Gent, by Sir Edward Diggs, Edq., ye 19th of May 1651. 1,1 

The Clifts Plantation was some five or six miles east of Mattox, the 
plantation where Colonel Pope lived and died. In his will, probated in 
1660, Nathaniel Pope writes: "Unto my son Thomas Pope, my land and 
plantation situated upon the Clifts &c. ...” And among the executors 
of his will he appoints his son-in-law, John Washington. In 1661 the 
patent to the Clifts was renewed by Thomas Pope, who erected "a man 
ner house” on the plantation to which there were added "lands, servants, 
Cattle stock and appurtenances thereunto belonging &c. ...” After 
the death of Thomas Pope, his widow Johnanna returned to her home in 
Bristol, England. The Clifts was leased eventually to her brother-in-law, 
Nathaniel Pope, mariner, of London. 

In 1715, or it may have been still earlier, young Thomas Lee began 
negotiations to purchase this plantation, the most commanding site 
on the lower Potomac. In February, 1716, the preliminaries for the 
purchase had been accomplished — all, at least, that could be done in 
Virginia — and Lee got a lease of the property. This lease is among the 
documents in the Westmoreland Courthouse, in Book 6 Deeds & Wills: 

THIS INDENTURE made 13th February 1716 and third year of the reign 
of Lord George — 

Between Nathaniel Pope of London, Marriner of the one part and Thomas 
Lee of the County of Westmoreland in Virginia, Gent, of the other part — 

THIS INDENTURE WITNESSETH: That the sd. Nathaniel Pope for the 
sum of £375-7-0 of lawful money of Great Britain to him in hand paid by the 
said Thomas Lee &c . . . sd. Nathaniel Pope doth hereby acknowledge to the 
sd. Thomas Lee and his heirs forever &c. the plantation called the Clifts plan- 
tation scituated in County of Westmoreland on Potomac River in Virginia 
containing 1,443 Acres and all the lands, stock, servants, Cattle and appurtances 
thereunto belonging &c. 

Wit.: Jno. Jones, Thomas Walker, 

Robert Wells, William Vaughan. 

‘At approximately the same time, the first Richard Lee, who was a contemporary of the first 
Nathaniel Pope, obtained a grant for the lands in Westmoreland, later called Matholic Planta- 
tion, and also a lease for the lands that he formed into his plantation Ditchley. adjoining Cobbs 
Hall at Dividing Creek in the county of Northumberland. At that time the greater part of that 
region of the Northern Neck was named Northumberland County. Two years later, in 1653, 
Westmoreland was formed. 

Foundation plan of the Castle at Green Spring, the first Great House in Virginia, built 
by Governor Berkeley about 1648. Property of Ludwell and Lee families for 621 
years. Discovered and identified in 1926 by Jesse Dimmick. 

Before the purchase could be effected, however, it appears that it 
was necessary for Thomas Lee to confer with the widow of Richard 
Pope. Lee’s desire to possess this property is evidenced by the fact that 
he went to England to complete the purchase of it. The record of the 
date of his departure is in the Westmoreland Courthouse. It shows 
that he held no court as justice of the peace for the year 1716. The 
reason given for his not "swearing” for that year is that he "being 
designed a Voyage at sea presumes t’ would be of little moment untill 
his return to take the aforesaid oath.” Then, on May 31, 1716, is recorded 
"Thomas Lee gone on a voyage to sea.” 

He went with two projects in mind. In 1716 Thomas and Henry Lee 
were living at Matholic, which belonged to their oldest brother, Richard, 
then in London. It was necessary to obtain a lease to the property they 
then had under cultivation. And Thomas Lee wanted to buy the Clifts. 
For these reasons he paid his first visit to England, the country his father 
had never left in spirit — the land where his adventurous grandfather 
had been born. He remained th^re about a year. 

[ 30 ] 

The Secretary's House, Williamsburg. 



The indenture of lease to Matholic bears the date of November 6, 
1716, "between Richard Lee, son of Richard Lee, Sr. late of Copple 
parish, Westmoreland County, Gent, and Reuben Welch, Thomas Lee 
(party hereto) and Henry Lee of Essex [Westmoreland] County &c. — 
on behalf of sd. Thomas Lee do grant and to farm letten unto sd. 
Thomas Lee 2600 Acres, same lands late in tenure of Richard Lee, Sr. 
&c. to sd. Thomas Lee for term of twenty one years — Sd. Thomas Lee 
to pay sd. Martha Lee &c. sum of tenn pounds lawful money annually 
of Great Britain at the dwelling house of sd. Martha in Goodman’s 
fields in parish of St. Mary White Chappie in the County of Middlesex 

At this time Thomas Lee wrote his brother in Virginia with reference 
to his purpose to buy the Clifts: 

London Nov r . 13 th 1716 

Dear Harry 

I am Just return’d from Gravesend where I took leave of Phil. Lightfoot in 
the George Cap 1 . Brookes. I am preparing as fast as I can for Virginia. Your 
Cloths are just come home. I have bo’t you a Sattin Druggit lin’d, with silver 
buttons and Bro r . Fr s . is a Cloth with mettle buttons both made by my Taylor 
& I hope will fit, and both fashionable & I hope will please. I can’t say in wk 
Ship they’l Come yet. This is [mutilated] of soe much hurry yh I shall Cer- 
tainly forget many things for myself, wk Ever I doe for my friends. I have 
bo’t Cousin Tayloe’s India goods and with them some for us, I have ordL [ ?] 
to be made with Chains as I remember Netherton’s are, whose friends you may 
Tell [ ?] were when I first came with mee & I promissL wh [mutilated] desired, 
but they have not bin with me Since, if they [mutilated] I’ll serve y m . for his 
sake, You need not Trouble y r Self abh moving for where yo are y° may live 
without Interruption & y r . negroes. Our Bro r . is well & will doe well, and our 
Sister is Certainly the best woman in the world, our Cousins are pretty. I have 
had all the kindness from Bro r . I cou’d des[ire] I have wrote my friends by all 
oppertunitys, & particularly Bro r . Phil Engage Chilton to Adamson Y© may 
tell him he may depend on the same usage as from our Bro r . & he will be as 
much obliged: 1 hope to purchase the Clifts [mutilated] Tell Phipps I believe 
I’ve a satisfactory answer from his father. With Love to Bro rs . & Sister & 
Cousin to all my neighbours & friends among y m . Jonny Footman [ ?] I long 
to see you. Dear Harry I am 

Y r . most aff e Bro r . 

Harry Fitzhugh is well of the Small pox. 2 

Thomas Lee 

Before he left England the negotiations for the purchase of the Clifts 
were evidently concluded. 

His return to Virginia was noted by a court record of August 28, 

^Richard Bland Lee Papers. 1700-1825, Library of Congress. The italics are the author’s. 



1717: "Thomas Lee, Esq. appointed and nominated the Last Commis- 
sion of the Peace— Being in Court moved to take the oath and took his 
place.’’ He went back to the courthouse in his home county and took 
up his work where he had left off. 

According to a memorandum in the Westmoreland County records, 
he took possession of the Clifts the following summer: "On the 9th day 
of August 1718 Thomas Sorrell being fully thereunto impowered did 
give Thomas Lee Esq. within named possession and seizure of the 
manner house erected on the second Clift as also by delivering him turf 
& twigg on the same plantation in token of livery and seizure of the 
whole lands and appurtenances within mentioned and quiett possession 
of same &c.” 


In 1720 there were but ten settled counties in Virginia. The earlv 
settlements on the James, the York, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac 
had expanded with the passing generations, and in lower Tidewater 
now reached from Chesapeake Bay to the Falls of the James. In other 
parts of the Colony was only the occasional log cabin of the frontiers- 
man. The greater part of the country still lay unsettled, unexplored. 

In this, his thirtieth year, Thomas Lee’s career passed from local to 
state affairs, from the Northern Neck to the colonial capital at Wil- 
liamsburg. He was elected by the Freeholders of Westmoreland one of 
the county’s two representatives in the House of Burgesses. The step 
from the simple duties of the local magistrate to that of full legislative 
power was a significant one. To Lee now came the responsibility of the 
Virginia Burgess for initiating laws and recommending them to the 

During his first term as Burgess, the assembly was in session for a 
brief period, from five to six weeks. He was allowed the customary ex- 
penses for himself, one servant, two horses and "ferriage.” A record in 
the courthouse of Westmoreland shows the payment of his first salary: 
"To Thomas Lee, Esq. Burgess Salary for 39 days — 4905 lbs. Tob[acco J.” 

Lee was not a stranger in Williamsburg. While he was agent for 
Lady Fairfax, he had frequently transacted business at the Capitol and 
the secretary’s house. But it was now a new experience to enter the Capi- 
tol as one of the lawmakers of the Colony and to have a seat of his own 
in the General Assembly. At that time, in the latter years of Governor 
Spotswood’s administration, the colonial village had not yet be- 
come "a city corprate.” Virgin forest trees still grew in its few streets 

The Secretary’s House, Williamsburg. 



and in the pleasant gardens around the dwelling houses — little white 
houses of frame or brick with green blinds and huge brick chimneys and 
dormer windows in their cedar shingled roofs. 

Mary Johnston paints the early scene in Pioneers of the Old South , 
quoting certain delightful phrases of Hugh Jones: "Williamsburg was 
still a small village, even though it was the capital. Towns indeed, in 
any true sense, were nowhere to be found in Virginia. Yet Williamsburg 
had a certain distinction. Within it there arose, beneath and between 
old forest trees, the college, an admirable church — Bruton Church— 
the capitol, the Governor’s house or palace, and many very tolerable 
dwelling houses of frame and brick. There were also taverns, a market- 
place, a bowling green, an arsenal, and presently a playhouse. The 
capitol at Williamsburg was a commodious one, able to house most 
of the machinery of state. Here were the Council Chamber, 'where the 
Governor and Council sit in very great state, in imitation of the King 
and Council, or the Lord Chancellor and House of Lords,’ and the great 
room of the House of Burgesses, 'not unlike the House of Commons.’ 
Here, at the capitol met the General Courts in April and October, the 
Governor and Council acting as judges. There were also Oyer and 
Terminer and Admiralty Courts. There were offices and committee 
rooms, and on the cupola a great clock, and near the capitol was 'a 
strong, sweet Prison for Criminals; and on the other side of an open 
Court another for Debtors . . . but such Prisoners are very rare, the 
Creditors being generally very merciful. ... At the Capitol, at publick 
Times, may be seen a great Number of handsome, well-dressed, corn- 
pleat Gentlemen. And at the Governor’s House upon Birth-Nights, and 
at Balls and Assemblies, I have seen as fine an Appearance, as good 
Diversion, and as splendid Entertainments, in Governor Spotswood’s 
Time, as I have seen anywhere else.’ ” 

The new Burgess from Westmoreland was well acquainted with the 
families of the little colonial city and its outlying plantations. Indeed, 
many of them were his kith and kin. The Ludwell family he must have 
known particularly well, as the friendship and political association be- 
tween them was of three generations standing. The Ludwells were then 
living at Green Spring near Williamsburg and their house most prob- 
ably became a second home for young Lee. 

Thomas Lee, himself, was by this time a man of some means and influ- 
ence. Perhaps Beverley would have called him an "Old Stander” too. 
The remuneration from his various offices was enough to make him quite 





independent of the income from Matholic Plantation and that of the 
Clifts. He was ready to think of marrying and founding a family 
of his own. 

Hannah, second daughter of Philip Ludwell, was then in her nine- 
teenth year. Perhaps she inherited certain of her mother’s qualities 
of manner and charm for which "the Harrison girls of Surry” were 
celebrated. In the portrait of her mother bv Sir Godfrey Kneller there 
is spirit, sweetness and intelligence. 

Thomas Lee was not unobservant. He had remarked to his brother 
Henry that their London cousins were pretty and doubtless he found 
Hannah Ludwell so. They must have met frequently at the playhouse, 
at Bruton Church, and at the Governor’s House, completed in that year, 
where the social life of the Colony was beginning to center. 

The social life of colonial Williamsburg was its pleasantest phase: 
"The number of its permanent population at its most was only a little 
more than two thousand. But when the courts and Council and Burgesses 
were in session, the leading planters came from all over Tidewater and 
brought their families and set up for the ’season.’ Its houses and ordi- 
naries were full; its streets were inordinately active with coach, chariot, 
chaise and berlin; its church, theater, college and race-course were alive 
with citizens and visitors; and there was such social gaiety as for elegance 
and sprightliness was not excelled in any other colony. 

"The 'season’ took its cachet from the Royal Governor’s entertain- 
ments at the Palace. Chief of these, in addition to dinners and courts 
and receptions for distinguished visitors, was the annual ball on the 
King’s birthnight. On that night the double row of 'noble catalpas,’ 
which flanked the great 'Palace Green,’ were hung with colored lanterns. 
Lighted by them the coaches full of guests found their way to the great 
front door. 

"Inside the Palace the mirrors and polished floors multiplied the 
tapers twinkling in candlesticks, sconces and chandeliers. The eight- 
eenth-century company was colorful in the pomp of brocade and the 
graceful sweep of full folded silk dresses. Men and women alike piled 
their heads with curled and powdered wigs. Jewels sparkled on those 
pinnacles as well as on shoe-buckles and knee-clasps, at the necks of the 
ladies and in the lace jabots of the men’s courtly costume. . . . 

"The theater was early an active and appreciated feature of life at 
Williamsburg. Here midway the south side of the Palace Green was 
built the first playhouse in the colonies, about 1715. A second theater 

Hannah Harrison (Mrs. Philip Ludwell), grandmother of the Stratford Lees: from the 
original painting by Sir Godfrey Knellcr. 



was built near the Capitol. From a modest, somewhat amateur or at 
least local, beginning the Williamsburg theaters eventually drew the 
leading companies which came out from England to act on this side of 
the Atlantic. Thus throughout the century the 'planter in town’ enjoyed 
the plays of Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Jonson, Congreve, 
Wycherley, Farquhar and other English dramatists until the disturbing 
days of the Revolution.” ; 

During his first term as Burgess, Thomas Lee evidently made his pro- 
posals of marriage. Although he had not as yet his own home to offer a 
wife, Matholic, on which he had already renewed the lease, would serve 
while he was building on his Clifts Plantation. His marriage to Hannah 
Ludwell took place at Green Spring during the last week of May, 1722. 
A document termed "The Marriage Bond of Thomas Lee” contains the 
following provisions: 

Know all men by these presents that Thomas Lee of Westmoreland County 
in Virginia, Gentleman, and Francis Lightfoot of Charles Citty County, Gentle- 
man, doe owe and stand indebted to Philip Ludwell of Greenspring in James 
Citty County in Virginia, Esq., in the Sum of twelve hundred pounds of Lawfull 
money of England to the payment whereof well and truely to be made to the 
said Philip, his Execut’s, Administrators or Certain Attorney at Greenspring 
upon demand, we bind ourselves and either of us, our and either of our heirs, 
Execut’s and Administrators, jointly and Severally firmly by these presents sealed 
with our Seals and dated this twenty third day of May, Anno Domini one thou- 
sand seven hundred and Twenty two. 

The Condition of this Obligation is such that whereas a Marriage is intended 
to be had and Solemnized betwixt the Above bound Thomas Lee and Hannah, 
the Daughter of the above said Philip, with whome the said Thomas is to have 
and receive in Marriage six hundred pounds sterling money of England which 
was given to her by Philip Ludwell and Benjamin Harrison, Esqrs. her grand- 
fathers: now if the said Marriage shall be had and Solemnized and the said six 
hundred pounds sterling shall be paid to the said Thomas and he shall depart 
this life leaving the said Hannah Surviving, then in that Case if the heirs, 
Execut’s or Administrators of the said Thomas or one of them shall pay and 
deliver to the said Hannah upon Demand the Sum of six hundred pounds of 
good and Lawfull money of England or Such part of the Estate of the said 
Thomas as the Law appoints for Widows dowers, which she the said Hannah 
shall Choose which Choice shall be made within one Month after such decease, 
if thereunto required and not sooner, then this obligation to be void otherwise 
to remain in full force. Signed &c. 

On the 30th of May, 1722, the following receipt from Thomas Lee 
was given: 

3 From Tidewater Virginia, by Paul Wilstach. Copyright 1929. Used by special permission of 
the publishers, The Bobbs-Merrill Company. 


Virg’a Greenspring May ye 30th, 1722. Received of Philip Ludwell Esq’r. 
one set of bills of Exchange drawn by him on Mr. Micajah Perry, merch’t in 
London for Six hundred pounds payable to me which is in full payment (when 
paid) of one Legacy of one hundred pounds given by Benja: Harrison Esq’r to 
Hannah my wife and also of five hundred pounds sterl: given to my s’d wife 
by the last will of Philip Ludwell Esq’r her grandfather and I do hereby Requit 
ye first named Philip the father of my wife from ye same and every part thereof. 

Witness my hand the day and year above written. 

This shows that the marriage was solemnized sometime between the 
twenty-third and the thirtieth of the month. 

From Williamsburg Thomas and Hannah Lee made the long journey 
to Matholic. Whether they went by horse or by boat is not recorded. 
There were no roads from the colonial capital to the far frontier of 
the Northern Neck, only trails through the virgin forest. There were 
two rivers to cross before they reached Cople Parish in the county of 
Westmoreland. By boat they would have sailed down the River James, 
out into Chesapeake Bay. Veering north they would have entered the 
mouth of the Potomac. They would have taken in sail on Lee’s creek and 
anchored at Matholic Plantation’s own landing. Whichever route thev 
took, they passed by hundreds of acres patented by Thomas Lee’s grand- 
father in Gloucester, York, Northumberland and Westmoreland coun- 

Matholic was "a large brick house largely inclosed by brick walls.” 
It stood near Matholic and Lee’s creeks not far from the town now 
known as Hague. Even then, at the time of Thomas Lee’s return with his 
bride, it was nearly half a century old, having been built by Lee’s father 
when he married Laetitia Corbin. Like William Fitzhugh’s plantation, 
Bedford, it was one of the very few large seventeenth century houses 
of the Northern Neck. 

Although Matholic was evidently intended by young Lee as a tempo- 
rary dwelling place while his own home, Stratford Hall, on the Clifts 
Plantation was being built, he remained there for seven years. In that 
period, before they moved to Stratford, Thomas and Hannah Lee be- 
came the parents of four children: Richard, born June 17, 1723; Philip 
Ludwell, born February 24, 1726; Hannah Ludwell, born February 
6, 1728; and John, born March 28, 1729. 

The Potomac side of Westmoreland was always Thomas Lee’s home. 
He is frequently spoken of in court records as "Thomas Lee of Po- 
tomac.” As already noted he held three remunerative positions in the 
Northern Neck before the year 1716. Throughout almost every year 



from 1711 to 1749 there is some mention of him in the records of West- 
moreland Courthouse. Through them the records of Thomas Lee’s own 
service are made clear, and an interesting picture is drawn of the duties, 
difficulties and frequent dangers encountered by a countv magistrate in 
colonial Virginia. 

Here is an instance in 1725, when one Samuel Stroud, "Master of the 
Sloop Content,” tries to smuggle "Skins and furrs” from the Potomac 
region. Lee promptly brings suit against him, as recorded on page 123 
of the Court Orders [1721-1731]: "Thos. Lee, Esq. who as well for and 
in the behalf of our Sovereign Lord the King as himself brought Suit at 
May Court 1725 against Samuel Stroud, mariner, Master of the Sloop 
Content of Boston in new England and declared against him for taking 
on board the Said Sloop, Sundry and divor hides, Skins and furrs to 
Export hence without paying the duties by Law assest on the said com- 
modities etc.” There also appears to have been considerable difficulty 
in the matter of collecting duties on "Liquors in South Potomac.” Lee 
asks for and receives a commission empowering him to receive the rates, 
duties, etc., on such commodities. 

On July 26, 1726, a record on page 125 shows he was called upon to 
produce this commission in court. On June 1, 1727, he is made one 
of the trustees and guardians of the orphans of William Fitzhugh. 
William Fitzhugh of Eagle’s Nest was the first husband of Lee’s only 
sister, Ann. Another expression of trust in him comes when George 
Randall, merchant of Great Britain, declares: "I the said George Randall, 
Sen r Have constituted in my stead & in my place my trusty & well 
beloved friend Thomas Lee of the place commonly called Potomac in 
Virginia, Esq. to be my true & Lawfull Attorney for me &c.” 

Other records showing quite a different attitude to Lee also appear 
when "three Sailors, John Fletcher, Ambrose Forward and Isaac Chap- 
man, belonging to the Ship Elizabeth of London are brought to the 
bar and several depositions being read against them of vile and Illegal 
behavior and threating Colo. Thos. Lee whereupon the Court do order 
the said John, Ambrose and Isaac to be taken into Custody and com- 
mitted to Goal until further proceedings which is to be had concerning 
the said facts.” This was on February 26, 1728. On March 4 these three 
sailors with two others from the same ship are bound over "to keep the 
peace for threating the life of Colo. Thos. Lee.” 

Lee, evidently unconcerned, goes calmly on his way as "Gentleman 
Justice.” His second term at the General Assembly in Williamsburg 


approaches and on October 30, 1728, is recorded: "To Colo. Thos. Lee 
for 46 Days attendance on ye General Assembly as burgess for this 
County, Going, returning and ferriage etc. 6,772 lbs. Tob[acco].” 

The legal process through which it was necessary for the freeholder 
to order his slightest move where the public was in any way concerned 
is shown in a record of March 28, 1729. The house later known as 
Mt. Pleasant is being built by Thomas Lee on Matholic ground, prob- 
ably for his London cousin, George Lee: "On motion of Colo. Thos. 
Lee to be admitted to Turn the road Leading from the Crossroads at 
ye white oak down to his plantation, he designing to build a Dwelling 
house on the Top of the hill near where the road now passes. It is there- 
fore directed by the Court that Robert Carter, Jun. Esq. and Jeremiah 
Rust Gent, (when Desired by the said Lee) view and Inspect the place 
proposed for Turning the said road and on their approbation of the 
Same the said Colo. Thos. Lee to have Liberty to Alter the Road Ac- 
cordingly and Clear a new way according to Law.” The following year 
Lee is again at the Capitol in Williamsburg according to the record: 
"To Colo. Thos. Lee for his Burgesses Sallery the time being 44 days 
and 8 Days for going and Returning @130 pounds of Tob[acco]. a 
Day with ferriges 130 In all, 6,970 lbs. Toba[cco].” 

That his service as Burgess impressed others beside Lee’s constituents 
and that he was personally popular in Williamsburg is evident from the 
signal honor conferred upon him in 1732 when he was appointed to 
the Council by his Majesty King George the Second. This position, 
given by the Crown on recommendation of the Privy Council, was for 
life. It was the highest in point of authority and prestige of any officer 
in the colonial government, except that of governor and lieutenant gov- 
ernor. Three qualifications were essential: education, wealth, proven 
executive ability. A Councillor of State, as the office was termed, 
exercised executive functions with the governor, as a member of its 
second and highest legislative body. Thus Thomas Lee was not only a 
judge in the highest colonial court, but also through his voice and vote 
as a Councillor were the laws of Virginia made. Submitted to the Coun- 
cil from the House of Burgesses, a measure became law, or not, as the 
Councillors decreed. If passed by them, it went to the governor, as a 
matter of form, for his signature. The law was then sent to England 
by the Governor, also as a formality, to be examined and approved 
by the Privy Council. As Beverley expressed it: "The Laws having duly 
past the House of Burgesses, the Council, and the Governor’s Assent; 



they are transmitted to the King by the next Shipping, for his Approba- 
tion, his Majesty having another negative Voice. But thev immediately 
become Laws, and are in Force upon the Governor’s first passing them, 
and so remain, if his Majesty don’t actually repeal them, although he be 
not pleased to declare his Royal Assent, one way or other. 

"There are no appointed times for their Convention; but thev are 
call’d together, whenever the Exigencies of the Country make it neces- 
sary, or his Majesty is pleas’d to order any thing to be proposed to 

For seventeen years, from 1732 to the day of his death in 1750, Thomas 
Lee was to hold this position of Councillor of State and Judge of the 
Supreme Court of Virginia, even after he became its governor. How 
he used this added power and authority for the interests of the British 
Empire in North America, is told in the record of those years — a record 
of service that has never been fully revealed until the present day. It 
establishes Thomas Lee of Stratford Hall as one of the great colonials. 

Stratford Hall stands on a broad plateau protected on the river side by natural fortifications. Sketch by Morley j. Williams. 



W HEN Thomas and Hannah Lee chose the site for their Great 
House on the Clifts Plantation, they selected a spot far inland, 
at least a mile or more back from the waterfront. In the early 
1720’s many dangers beset the Potomac planter whose home was too 
close to the river. He would always be apprehensive of Indian attack, 
pirate raid, or injury to property or person from roaming bands of sail- 
ors or convicts. The point selected for Stratford Hall was curiously 
fortified by nature. To reach from the river the plateau on which the 
house was to stand, it was necessary to climb the steep cliffs at the 
water’s edge and traverse a tract of wild land, thickly wooded and 
furrowed bv deep ravines. No fort could have been more secure from 
river assault. 

Doubtless there were other reasons that led Thomas and Hannah Lee 
to build away from the river. Among the families living on the shore, 
there was constant illness, caused, it was thought, by the river damp and 
chill. Then too, there was another menace from the river, one far more 
certain than Indian attack or pirate raid. For this went on imperceptibly, 
night and day — the never-ending erosion of the shores. The great tidal 
river, the cherished highway, the connecting link with civilization, was 
at the same time a formidable enemy. With his intimate knowledge of 
the Potomac coast line, Thomas Lee doubtless realized the destructive 
effect of wave action upon the Stratford shores. In times of storm great 
masses of earth and giant trees were sometimes swallowed by the river. 
It may even have been that the original Pope "manner house” and its 
"messuages” had been undermined by the waters or was being threat- 
ened with ruin. 

In any event Stratford Hall was built not on the cliffs but on this broad 
plateau protected by natural fortifications on the north or river side. At 
the foot of the plateau itself the deep, shadowed ravine was "streaming 
with sweete Springs, like veynes in a naturall bodie.” Precisely when 
this commanding site on the plateau was chosen and the first building 
begun, is unknown. It must have followed closely after the survey of the 
estate was made under Lee’s direction in 1721. Since this survey marks the 
first step in the actual development of the Stratford property, the record 
of March 29, 1721, is significant: "... and this Deponent [Humphrey 
Pope] further saith that in the year 1721 as well as he can remember he 
was present at a survey made by Mr. Thomas Newton, dec’d of the 

[ 45 ] 


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aforesaid Patent for the said Thomas Lee and this Deponent then shewed 
the said Newton the stump of the aforesaid black walnut tree which had 
been cut down some years before. ...” 

The next available record is of the year 1725, when Thomas Lee agreed 
to give an indentured servant his freedom in return for certain work in 
Lee’s "quarter at the river-side.” While neither the Clifts nor Stratford 
is mentioned, this record from the book of deeds and wills, 1658-1828, 
of the Westmoreland court records, may prove to refer both to construc- 
tion work at Stratford and to repairs of old outbuildings on the cliffs: 

Agreement between Thomas Lee and William Bills, bricklayer his the sd. 
Lee’s servant by Indenture: First the said William Bill in consideration of his 
freedom from his said master does hereby discharge his sd. master from all 
wages that is or may hereafter be due to him from the said master by his 
Indenture or otherways whatsoever and obledges himself when required by the 
said Lee his now master to come and finish one ceiling of a room in the said 
Lee’s house workmanlike and what other bricklayer’s or plaisterers work there 
is to doe to the said Lee’s house or out houses and repair two chimneys of brick 
at the said Lee’s quarter at the river side. West d - — At a Court held for the said 
County the 24th day of Nov., 1725, Thomas (Wm.) Bill within named per- 
sonally acknowledged the within agreement (in open Court) to be just and 
what he had voluntarily consented and agreed to which was approved of by the 
Court and at the instance of Thomas Lee, Esq. admitted to record and was 
entered thereon the 7th day of Dec., 1725 — Thomas Sorrell, Clk. 

Occupied though Thomas Lee was with the duties and responsibilities 
of his several offices, the farming of his own plantations, and the cares 
and interests of a growing family, it is evident from the existing build- 
ing and from the traces of old vistas, of garden walls and terraces, that 
he gave much concern to the design of the setting of his home as well as 
to the construction of the buildings. It was an arduous task to supervise 
the manufacture and assembling of materials. It appears to be certain 
that bricks for Stratford’s mansion house and flanking outbuildings 
were made locally from local clays; lime for the plaster burned from 
Potomac oyster shells; stones for the mill foundations quarried near by; 
lumber for carvings and structural timbers alike cut from Tidewater 
trees. Stone work for the house, grinding stones for the grist mills, big 
saws for the mills, many tools and utensils of iron or steel, glass and 
hardware were imported from England. Then too, all had to be directed 
bv a busy man at Matholic, nearly twenty miles away, or at Williams- 
burg, four davs across the country. It is not surprising that the construc- 
tion required from eight to ten years. 

The plan for the Great House and the grounds was a grand concep- 




tion — unusual for the period and unlike any other design in the Ameri- 
can colonies. Suggestive of the imposing estate of Ashdown House, seat 
of the Earl of Craven in Berks, England, the basic idea appears to have 
been a mammoth cross making four long vistas: north, a mile toward 
the Potomac; south, a mile or more toward the King’s Highway; east, 
far over the enclosed gardens through the fields on the plateau, to the 
deep forest; and west, to more virgin forest beyond the dark wooded 
ravine skirted by the cliff road to the river. 

During the early eighteenth century period in Virginia, according to 
Mary Stanard, "the most common form of mansion, whether of brick or 
wood, on a large plantation was the square building, two stories high 
with or without an attic, and with a wide hall — often called the great 
hall — four spacious rooms on each floor, and four chimneys. It was 
sometimes flanked by wings and sometimes by detached out-buildings 
used for office, school-house, laundry and kitchen. These, with stable, 
carriage house and — a little farther away, wholly or in part hidden bv 
trees — the negro quarters, consisting of log cabins set in rows or scat- 
tered about, gave the place the appearance of a small village.’’ 

While bearing a certain resemblance to these typical plantation man- 
sions, the plan of Stratford Hall was quite different from other Virginia 
homes. The main house itself — a noble mansion — is an H -shaped struc- 
ture of brick in which the cross-bar is formed by a great central hall — 
mediaeval in suggestion and many times larger than the hall of the larg- 
est contemporary house. This Great Hall, thirty by thirty feet in dimen- 
sions, connects two massive wings, thirty feet wide by sixty feet deep, 
in each of which are grouped four huge chimney stacks, forming high 
towers. The plan of the entire group of buildings is a quadrangle di- 
rectly in the center of what was once the vast cross of vistas. The main 
house, consisting of a main story and attic above a high basement, is of 
immense proportions, with brick walls two and one-half feet thick. 

In each detail, large and small, the H -shape of the central mansion 
is followed. Instead of being flanked by the usual two outbuildings, or 
dependencies, in line formation, Stratford has four. Each of these de- 
pendencies — the Kitchen, the Law Office, the Counting Office, and what 
was probably the Schoolhouse — is in itself a considerable building, one 
and a half stories in height, with great chimneys. Each stands about 
twenty-eight feet from the nearest corner of the house and directly in 
line with it. Other outbuildings, the Orangery, the Summer houses, the 
Meat house, the Weaving sheds, the Servant and Slave quarters, were 

Comparative plans, showing similarity of dimensions and foundation plan between Strat- 
ford Hall and the Capitol at Williamsburg. 

located near the mansion. The Springhouse Thomas Lee built at the 
foot of the plateau where the Great House stood, in the very midst of 
the "vale of crystal springs.” 

The H-shape was common in Tudor England, and possibly Thomas 
Lee had seen a number of such houses during his visit there in 1716. 
There were several in the counties of Essex, Bucks, Hampshire, Shrop- 
shire, Wiltshire, and Berks. Upton House (known in 1780 as Ham 
House) was among them. Also designed in the H-form were numerous 
public buildings in England, which Lee may have seen. In Stephen 
Primatt’s Handbook of Architecture (a publication available to Thomas 
Lee) it is illustrated as a house plan. Nearer at hand, one of the Ran- 
dolph homes in Virginia, Tuckahoe is a frame structure of the H design. 
But it would seem that there was no brick building of H-shape in the 
Colony when Stratford was planned except the Capitol at Williamsburg. 
The "fair brick capitol,” the public building Thomas Lee knew best, 
was undoubtedly his model for the plan of the house. This is evident 
not only from its H-shape but also from an exact similarity of dimen- 
sions between the buildings. 1 Stratford’s walls, like those of the Capitol, 
are of fort-like thickness. The Queen Anne stiffness and prim formality 
of the Capitol are relieved in Stratford by the architectural balance of 
the four dependencies. Certain features of the Secretary’s house at Wil- 
liamsburg seem also to be reproduced in Stratford brickwork, doorways, 
and pediments. 

From the Castle at Green Spring other architectural influences seem 
to be derived. The great central hall of that old house, with windows 
flanking the entrances, the first of its type in the colonies or even among 

'According to measurements made by Thomas Tileston Waterman. 
[ 50 ] 

Landscape design for Stratford by Morley J. Williams. 


English houses, marked the transition from the mediaeval form of hall. 
This feature of the Castle was adapted to Stratford’s plan, together with 
its type of flat-arched basement window and the high stoop of the main 

It is a curious and interesting circumstance that from the three build- 
ings in Virginia known most intimately to Thomas and Hannah Lee 
apparently came the principal architectural features of their stately 
house. So within the fabric designed for their home were thus woven 
patterns of the buildings which they must have loved. 

The physical unity of Stratford’s architectural plan — mansion and out- 
buildings, gardens and enclosing walls, roads of approach, and river 
landings — was evidence and symbol too of its working unity, with mas- 
ter, servants and slaves, work animals, fields, forests, and streams, quar- 
ters, shops, and mansion house constituting an isolated social and eco- 
nomic unit, self-operative, centripetal. 

Like all colonials in Virginia, Thomas Lee cherished English ties and 
associations, English names, traditions, manners, customs, even English 
trees, plants, and fruits — all that was of England. Throughout his whole 
life he loved and served the mother country. This feeling is so wrought 
into Stratford that it takes possession of one’s every sense. For plain, 
homely, robust as the house is, it has simplicity and dignity and the 
rhythm of magnificent proportions. 

From the circumstantial evidence available, Stratford Hall was prob- 
ably started about 1721-22, and the house was ready for occupancy by 
1729-30. The Lees probably moved there in the early fall of 1729, some 
months after the burning of Matholic. In the court records already 
quoted are references to threats of murder and arson made against 
Thomas Lee, by persons whom he punished for their transgressions of 
the law. During 1728 and 1729 another band of outlaws, including 
some indentured servants, were committing depredations in Westmore- 
land County. When complaint was brought to Lee, as justice of the 
peace, he issued a warrant to apprehend the thieves and so aroused their 

Through the Lee servants, the outlaws learned that in a room at 
Matholic, known as "the Cherry Tree Room,” were kept the Lee family 
plate, jewelry, and other articles of value. These men broke into Matholic 
on January 29, 1729, in the dead of night, found their way to the 
Cherry Tree Room, rifled it, and set fire to the house. 2 The interior wood- 

2 Through a discovery of original documents made by Mr. E. Carter Delano, deputy clerk of 
the Circuit Court, Richmond County, the complete record is available of the trial and conviction 
of the persons guilty of this crime. 

Top: A section of the panelling in the Great Hall. 

Bottom: Original hardware, brass locks, and H-hinges made in England. 


work was old and dry, and almost instantly the house became a mass of 
flames. Hannah Lee, pregnant at the time with her fourth child, escaped 
death only by being thrown from her chamber window on the second 
floor. The child, a son, was born a few weeks later, and died on the dav 
of his birth. 

The Maryland Gazette of February 4, 1729, reported the fire: 

Last Wednesday night Col. Thomas Lee’s fine house in Virginia was burnt, 
his office, barns and outhouses, his plate, cash to the sum of ten thousand lbs. 
papers and everything entirely lost. 

His lady and child were forced to be thrown out of a window and he himself 
hardly escaped the flames, being much scorched. A white girl of about twelve 
years old (a servant) perished in the fire. 

It is said that Col. Lee’s loss is not less than £50,000. 

In its March 4th issue the same paper had the following advertise- 

Stolen out of the House of Col. THOMAS LEE, in Virginia, sometime before 
it was burnt, a considerable quantity of valuable Plate, viz. Two Candle 
[Caudle] Cups, three Pints each. One Chocolate-Pot, One Coffee-Pot, One 
Tea-Pot. Three Castors, Four Salts, A Plate with the Cortius Arms. A Pint 
Tumbler Ditto Arms. Four Candlesticks, One or two Pint cans. A funel for 
Quart Bottles, no Arms on it. A Pair of Snuffers and Stand, etc. 

This Plate has on it the Coat of Arms or Crest, belonging to the Name of Lee, 
viz. TESS CHEQUE, between eight Billets, Four and Four. The Crest is a 
Squirrel sitting upon and eating an Acorn off the Branch of a Tree proper. 

N. B. The Governour of Virginia, has publish’d a Reward of 50 Pounds, and 
a Pardon to any one of the Accomplices who will discover the rest (except the 
Person who set Fire to the House.) 

The date of the fire, January 29, 1729, is confirmed through a court 
record, Thomas Lee’s deposition in reference to the will of William 
Chanler on file in the Westmoreland Courthouse. This will, accord- 
ing to Lee’s deposition, he had placed in his "scrutore” which, with 
everything else in the house, was burned. Nothing remained of the 
great old house of Matholic but scarred and blackened foundations. 
Today, the site alone is left; and after two hundred years, it still retains 
the name then given it, "Burnt House Fields.” The greater portion of 
Richard Lee’s celebrated library also was destroyed. Certain of the Lee 
family portraits escaped the flames. These may have been the family por- 
traits referred to in an inventory of furnishings at Lee Hall, the estate 
adjoining Matholic, occupied by Thomas Lee’s brother Henry and Mary 
(Bland) Lee. Or they may have been removed to Stratford before Janu- 
ary of 1729. According to a theory in the Lee family, various household 
furnishings were taken to Stratford from time to time. The move, hav- 



in g been long in contemplation, was probably a gradual process. This 
might readily account for the survival of the family portraits and a few 
of Richard Lee’s books. 

For a few months after the fire Thomas and Hannah Lee undoubtedly 
stayed with their relatives at Lee Hall. Hannah would have been in too 
weak a condition to move. Furthermore, Thomas Lee was overseeing the 
building of a house on Matholic lands for his nephew George. From this 
time, Matholic was called by the name of the new house, Mount Pleas- 
ant. 3 

That Thomas Lee had removed from this locality before 1730 is shown 
by several records in the Order Book of Westmoreland County (1721- 
31). On May 29, 1729, there is mention of an order for a "highway to 
the white oake by Capt. Henry Lee’s.” Captain Henry Lee lived at Lee 
Hall, the adjoining plantation to Colonel Thomas Lee and "right at the 
cross ye white oake.” The change in the road order from Colonel 
Thomas to Captain Henry would suggest that Colonel Thomas Lee bv 
May 29, 1729, had vacated that immediate section. 

While the fire was such a disaster to Lee and his family, it was not 
wholly a loss. According to his kinsman, Richard Corbin, Lee petitioned 
the governor and Council for assistance and received a favorable re- 
sponse. Governor Gooch wrote to the Lords of Trade and Plantations 
on March 26, 1729: 

Nor, My Lords, are these all our Fears, the secret Robberies and other vil- 
lanous attempte of a more pernicious Crew of Transported Felons — Mr. 
Thomas Lee, which in the night time were sett on fire by these Villains and 
in an instant burnt to the ground, a young White Woman burnt in her bed. 
The Gentleman and his Wife and three children very providently getting out 
of a Window, with nothing but their Shifts and Shirts on their backs, which 
was all they saved, not two minutes before the house fell in, and this was done 
by those Rogues because as a Justice of the Peace, upon complaint made to 
him, he had granted a warrant for apprehending of some of them. They are 
not yet discovered. 

In consideration of this Gentleman’s misfortune, which he is not well able 
to bear and as it arises from the discharge of his duty as a Magistrate, I have 
been prevailed upon to intercede with your Lordships that his Case may be 
recommended to his Majesty, for his Royal Bounty of two or three hundred 
Pounds towards lessening his loss, which was the more considerable by a very 
good Collection of Books . 4 

Abstracts from the series of letters that followed, while containing a 
repetition of the events of the fire, are of historic interest: 

“See Supplementary Records, IV : Records of Mount Pleasant. 

J Va. B. T. Vol. 38, pp. 30-31. Also London ref. C. O. 5 vol. 1336 page 30. 

An original lock , showing British trade-mark. 



1729, June 4, Whitehall. 

Lords of Trade to Lords of the Treasury-lnclose extract of letter from Lieut. 
Gov. Gooch giving a account of a barbarous outrage by a crew of transported 
felons on a gentleman of Virginia for having done his duty as a justice of the 
peace — Think it proper as the case is very deplorable that it should be laid 
before her Maj. for her consideration. 

1729, March 26, Virginia. 

Lieut. Gov. Gooch to Lords of Trade. — The secret robberies and other vil- 
lanous attempts of a more pernicious Crew of transported felons yet more 
intolerable — Describes how these villains in the night set fire to Mr. Thomas 
Lee’s house which was burnt to the ground, a young white woman burnt in 
her bed & Mr. Lee, his wife and three children only escaping out of the window 
with nothing but their shirts on, not two minutes before the house fell in. — And 
this because as a Justice of the Peace, Mr. Lee had granted a warrant for 
apprehending some of them — recommends his case to his Maj. Bounty of 2 or 
300 £ towards lessening his loss. 5 

1729, June 20, Whitehall. 

Lords of Trade to Lieut Gov. Gooch — . . . Have enclosed extract of his 
letter which relates to the houses of Mr. Lee having been burnt by some trans- 
ported felons to the treasury and hope his Maj. will extend his bounty to a 
person who has suffered for having discharged his duty — the Lt. Gov. will do 
well to use his utmost endeavors to find out and prosecute the persons concerned 
in this villianous action with the utmost severity of the law. . . . 

1730, April 9 th , Williamsburgh. 

Lieut. Gov. Gooch to Lords of Trade — Has received Treasury Warrants for 
£1,000 for defraying the expenses of running the (Boundary) Line — and for 
£ his Maj s - Bounty to Mr. Lee. . . . 8 

This bounty was ordered by Her Majesty, Queen Caroline, who was 
acting as regent in 1729. According to family tradition, it was used to 
complete Stratford. 

By the close of 1729, the Lee family must have been comfortably 
settled in their new home. On December 13, 1730, the birth of another 
son, Thomas Ludwell Lee, is recorded. Stratford is not mentioned as 
the place of his birth, but neither is Matholic named as the birthplace 
of the four older children. 

The year 1732 was an auspicious one for the family at Stratford, 
marked as it was by the appointment of Thomas Lee to the Council. The 
Stratford estate was increased at this time through Lee’s purchase of an 
additional 2,400 acres including another long stretch of river frontage. 

In this year too, on January 20, was born the fifth son, Richard Henry 

6 Va. Manuscripts From Sainsbury 1720-1730 — Vol. 9. From British Record Office. 
°Va. B. T. Vol. IS. R. 151 C. O. 1322 p. 277. 


Barely three weeks after his birth (recorded by his grandson, Richard 
Henry Lee, as having taken place at Stratford) , a similar event occurred 
at Bridges’ Creek in the home of Lee’s friend and neighbor, when 
"George Washington Son to Augustine & Mary his Wife was Born ye 
11th Day of February 1731/2 about 10 in the Morning & was Baptiz’d 
on the 3:th of April following. Mr. Beverley Whiting & Capt. Chris- 
topher Brooks Godfathers and Mrs. Mildred Gregory Godmother.” 
Throughout their lives these two, George Washington and Richard 
Henry Lee, born on almost the same day and on neighboring planta- 
tions, were to be united in their patriot services for the future republic. 

Thomas Lee’s appointment to the Council in this same year also 
meant more frequent visits and a closer association with Williamsburg 
for his family. His younger daughter Alice was fond of describing to her 
children and grandchildren the "splendour” in which her father lived 
at Williamsburg, where they must have occupied the Castle at Green 
Spring. 7 


Despite his heavy duties at Williamsburg, Thomas Lee spent much 
more of his time at Stratford than might have been expected. The 
papers and letters dated there make it evident that as much of his busi- 
ness as possible was transacted from the home he loved in Westmore- 
land. There he could supervise his plantation, plan and oversee the edu- 
cation of his children, and enjoy the society of his neighbors. The closest 
friendship existed always between the families of Stratford, Mount Airy, 
Sabine Hall, Peckatone, and Nominy Hall. 

The Stratford gardens were Lee’s special delight; and he seized every 
chance to add to them, even in the midst of business. From an official 
journey to Philadelphia, in 1744, he probably brought to Stratford the 
beautiful Lombardy poplars and weeping willows which survived over 
a hundred years. At one of the official dinners his host was Andrew 
Hamilton, who had a famous country seat outside of Philadelphia. 
Hamilton, like Lee, was an enthusiastic horticulturist and was especially 
interested in the importation to the colonies of rare trees, shrubs, and 
plants from England and many other parts of the old world. In his ex- 
perimental nursery were the first and only poplars and willows known 
at that period. Thus it was undoubtedly through Hamilton that Lee in- 
troduced these trees to Virginia — and to Stratford. 

’Mentioned by Nancy Shippen Livingston in a letter to her nephew William Shippen : Ship- 
pen Papers : Dr. Lloyd P. Shippen. 

View from one of the dining-room windows looking toward the river. 



Numerous records point to Thomas Lee’s never-flagging interest in 
botanical matters in general and the Stratford gardens in particular. He 
writes his brother Henry about "the grafted trees I left in boxes in the 
Garden. ...” Like all garden makers of the American colonies, he 
coveted seeds, bulbs, shrubs, and trees from England and delighted in 
exchanging for them his own Virginia products. His cousin, Lancelot 
Lee of Coton, Shropshire, wrote him May 21, 1745: '"After all give me 
leave to beg a small favor of you — the following trees are, I believe, 
native of Virginia, which I have endeavored to procure seeds of, but 
have hitherto been unsuccessful — the Virginia Cypress (it grows on 
wet marshy land), the scarlet oak, and the paria, or scarlet flowering 
horse chestnut. The cones of the Cypress should be sent entire; the 
acorns and chestnuts will easily keep so short a voyage. Pardon this 
trouble, which if I can return with anything this Island affords within 
my power, you may fully command.”' 

It may have been Lancelot who gave Thomas Lee the seeds for the 
majestic English beeches at Stratford which were probably planted there 
when the site for the Great House was determined. In the letter quoted, 
Lancelot Lee apparently comments on his Virginia cousin’s description 
of his orangery: "Your fruits and shades are indeed delightful. I have 
tasted them in the eastern though not in the "western’ world.” 

Thus to the robust English character of the early Stratford gardens, 
their fine symmetry and spacious proportions, was added a certain East- 
ern quality, a tropic richness borne out by the frequently recurring men- 
tion of the orangeries, the figs, the pomegranates. 

To the education of his sons Lee gave much attention. About this 
time the three older boys, having had several years’ instruction at home 
from tutors carefully selected by their father, were sent to England. 
Philip Ludwell and Thomas Ludwell were to complete their law studies, 
and Richard Henry was entered at a long established school in York- 

From surviving letters and documents it is evident that Thomas Lee’s 
sons and daughters had a great respect and admiration for their father. 
They also loved him devotedly. Years later Alice Lee told her children 
that there was in her father’s countenance a look unlike that of other 
men, as of one whose spirit overflowed with the milk of human kind- 
ness. He ""was wise and Philosophic,” she said; "His eve beamed hos- 
pitality,” and his smile expressed its very essence. 

s Magazine of the Society of the Lees of Virginia Vol. I, No 3, October, 1923, p. 98. 


When Alice’s son, Thomas Lee Shippen, visited Stratford Hall forty 
years after her father’s death, he wrote his parents: "... There is 
something truly noble in my grandfather’s picture — He is dressed in a 
large wig flowing over his shoulders (probably his official wig as Presi- 
dent of the Council) and a loose gown of crimson sattin richly orna- 
mented — I mention the dress as it may serve to convey to you some idea 
of the stile of the picture. But it is his physiognomy that strikes you 
with emotion — A blend of goodness & greatness — a sweet yet pene- 
trating eye — a finely marked set of features, and a heavenly counte- 
nance — Such I have almost never seen. Do not think me extravagant— 
My feelings were certainly so when I dwelt with rapture on the pictures 
of Stratford and felt so strong an inclination to kneel to that of my 
grandfathe[r], It was with difficulty that my uncles who accompanied 
me could persuade me to leave the Hall to look at the gardens vine- 
yards orangeries & lawns which surround the House. . . .” 9 

In the year 1748 more changes came in the life at Stratford with the 
first wedding in the family. Hannah, the elder daughter of the house, 
was married to her kinsman, Gawen Corbin of Peckatone. No descrip- 
tion of the wedding, nor any feature of it, is available; but it took place, 
no doubt, in the Great Hall at Stratford. 

In January, 1749, the year after her daughter’s marriage, Hannah 
Ludwell Lee died. She had borne her husband eleven children. As 
mistress of Stratford Hall, she had directed the large plantation house- 
hold, the indentured servants and the slaves in their domestic work and 
crafts. She had cared for them in sickness as she had cared for her 
husband and children — "a most tender mother,’’ it is written of her. 10 
Her body was carried over the long road to Matholic, their first home, 
where she had come as a bride from Green Spring twenty-eight years 
before. She was laid to rest in the family burial ground, in Burnt House 

Thomas Lee had a deep and abiding love for Hannah Lee. His last 
will and testament, drawn a few weeks after her death, says: "As to my 
Body, I desire if it Pleases God that I dye anywhere in Virginia, if it be 
Possible I desire that I may be buried between my Late Dearest Wife 
and my honoured Mother and that the Bricks on the side next my wife, 

8 Autographed signed letter from Thomas Lee Shippen dated September 20, 1790: Shippen 
Papers, Library of Congress. 

10 77m Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Vol. XX, 1750. By Sylvanus Urban, 
Gent., London. Printed by Edward Cave, at St. John’s Gate. 

The first mistress of Stratford Hall: Hannah Ludwell Lee, ivife of Thomas Lee and 
mother of the famous Lees : from the original portrait hy an unknown artist. 



may be moved, and my Coffin Placed as near hers as is Possible, without 
moving it or disturbing the remains of my Mother.” 

Someone who knew and loved Hannah wrote this ode to her mem- 
ory : 11 

Lo ! from yon solitary, sad recess, 

Bending this way, in dismal pomp of dress, 

Big with some fatal news, The Goddess of distress ! 

The bat and screech-owl on her shoulders stand. 

And yew and cypress fill each wringing hand; 

Streaming her eyes, dishevell’d all her hair, 

And moving with her cries the melting air, 

GRIEF’S self appears, who never visits day, 

But when uncommon worth is snatch’d away. 

T come, she cries, to wail Constantia dead! 

Phoenix of woman, and the marriage bed! 

When will again, such charms, and virtues meet! 

Ah, when a mind and body so complete! 

Thro’ wide America’s extended plains, 

Lament with me, ye gentle nymphs and swains! 

Her dear-felt loss, oh, aid me to deplore! 

Ne’er will you see the sweet Constantia more: 

Ne’er hear again the musick of her tongue, 

Softer by far than Philomela’s song. 

Who can refuse the tributary tear 
To one so lov’d, so affable, sincere ? 

Ah, what a mistress! how descending kind! 

And to the needy what a pitying mind ! 

Ye husbands, and ye children come and mourn, 

The fondest wife, and mother in her urn! 

Ye kindred, friends, ye virtue-lovers, all, 

Oh, let ye pearly drops in torrents fall! 

Nor to my wretched grot will I return, 

Till I have taught the hardest heart to mourn.” 

11 The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Vol. XX, 1750. By Sylvanus Urban, 
Gent., London. Printed by Edward Cave, at St. John’s Gate. 


ASA MEMBER of His Majesty’s Council, Thomas Lee took an in- 
creasingly active part in colonial affairs. With him originated the 
JL JJL project of purchasing from the Iroquois their lands beyond the 
Alleghenies. It was his suggestion that Virginia, Maryland, and Penn- 
sylvania form a Commission to act jointly to protect their boundaries 
and make the western lands safe for English settlement. The plan re- 
ceived immediate cooperation from the governors of these respective 
provinces who, during the summer of 1744, established the Commission 
with representatives from each colony to treat with the chiefs of the 
Six Nations at the little frontier town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This 
was the second attempt made in the American colonies for joint action 
against a common foe. The first, initiated during 1690, in the Province 
of New York, had been to unite neighboring colonies to repel the long- 
feared Canadian invasion. Over half a century later, Thomas Lee, see- 
ing the common danger to Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania from 
the menace of the French and Iroquois, therefore took measures for the 
joint security of these colonies. 

The Honorable William Gooch, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, 
appointed Colonel Lee, with William Beverley, to head the Colony’s 
delegation attending the Council. The official document reads: 

1744: Thos. Lee, Esq. and Wm. Beverley, Esq. appointed commissioners to 
treat with the Six Nations: 

Whereas of late some misunderstandings and Differences have arisen between 
His Majestys’ Subjects of this Dominion and the Six United Nations of Indians, 
and being induced by several Representations and Messages interchanged, to 
believe that they are desirous to enter into Treaty with this Government &c &c 

Know ye that I reposing special trust &c in the experience, Loyalty Integrity 
and Abilities of Thomas Lee Esq r a member in Ordinary of His Majestys’ hon ble 
Council of State, and one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judication in 
this Colony — and of W m Beverley Esq r Col: and County Lieutenant of the 
County of Orange and one of the Representatives of the People in the House of 
Burgesses of this Colony and Dominion of Virginia &c . . . have &c nomi- 
nated & constituted the said Thomas Lee and W m Beverley Commissioners &c 
to meet the Six Nations or Such Sachems &c as shall be deputed by them &c 
... at Newtown in Lancaster C° Province of Pensylvania &c — 1 
The Six Nations was the most formidable confederacy of Indians on 
the continent. Not only did it menace Pennsylvania and Virginia; but 

'Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Volume I. p. 238. 

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unless its claims to lands in Maryland as well as the territory of the Ohio 
basin could be disposed of by purchase, no settlement in these three 
colonies was safe from massacre. 

During the second week of May, 1744, Commissioner William Bev- 
erley of Blandfield met Lee at Stratford. All of the "Gentlemen of 
their Levies” came together there: Colonel John Tayloe, Jr., of Mount 
Airy; Warner Lewis of Warner Hall, Gloucester; James Littlepage of 
Fredericksburg; Robert Brooke of Brooke’s Bank on the Rappahannock; 
and Presley Thornton of North Garden. Lee’s eldest son, Philip Lud- 
well Lee, was also a member of the expedition. On the morning of 
Thursday, May 17, the group left Stratford by boat for Annapolis, from 
which point they proceeded to Pennsylvania. 

At the joint request of the Virginia and Maryland commissioners, 
Governor Thomas of Pennsylvania had called the Iroquois together 
months before. The chiefs and other braves of the Six Nations came 
from long distances with their squaws and children. They traveled in 
leisurely fashion, pitching camp, hunting, and fishing as they journeyed. 
It was late in June before the various groups reached Lancaster, and — 
some 250 in number — put up their wigwams just outside the town. 

The Council opened in the courthouse on June 22 and sessions were 
held each day until the second week of July. Of all the Indian con- 
ferences in colonial history, the Council at Lancaster was one of the 
most interesting and colorful. From its opening session to the close, 
Thomas Lee was the embassy’s central figure and as "Brother Assa- 
ragoa,” its chief spokesman. Lee’s tone with the Indians was firm, his 
speech direct, quite as though he were speaking to a group of English- 
men. His long acquaintance with the Indians of the Potomac and Rap- 
pahannock region and with their figurative form of speech, added, how- 
ever, a new note to his expression that doubtless must have clarified for 
his auditors the points at issue. The only speeches of Lee’s career that 
have been preserved are those given at Lancaster, one of which, his 
closing address, seems to have been a factor in determining the issues 
at stake: 

Sachims and Warriors of the united Six Nations. 

We are now come to answer what you said to us Yesterday, since what we 
said to you before on the Part of the Great King, our Father, has not been 
satisfactory. You have gone into old Times, and so must we. It is true that the 
Great King holds Virginia by Right of Conquest, and the Bounds of that Con- 
quest to the Westward is the Great Sea. 

If the Six Nations have made any Conquest over Indians that may at any 

Honorable Thomas Lee, President of the Council and Commander in Chief of Virginia: 
from the original portrait by an unknown artist. 



Time have lived on the West-side of the Great Mountains of Virginia, yet they 
never possessed any Lands there that we have ever heard of. That Part was alto- 
gether deserted, and free for any People to enter upon, as the People of 
Virginia have done, by Order of the Great King, very justly, as well by an 
ancient Right, as by its being freed from the Possession of any other, and from 
any Claim even of you the Six Nations, our Brethren, until within these eight 
Years. The first Treaty between the Great King, in Behalf of his Subjects of 
Virginia, and you, that we can find, was made at Albany, by Colonel Henry 
Coursey, Seventy Years since; this was a Treaty of Friendship, when the first 
Covenant Chain was made, when we and you became Brethren. 

The next Treaty was also at Albany, above Fifty-eight Years ago, by the 
Lord Howard, Governor of Virginia; then you declare yourselves Subjects to 
the Great King, our Father, and gave up to him all your Lands for his Protec- 
tion. This you own in a Treaty made by the Governor of New York with you 
at the same Place in the Year 1687, and you express yourselves in these Words, 
"Brethren, you tell us the King of England is a very great King, and why should 
not you join with us in a very just Cause, when the French join with our Enemies 
in an unjust Cause? O Brethren, we see the Reason of this; for the French 
would fain kill us all, and when that is done, they would carry all the Beaver 
Trade to Canada, and the Great King of England would lose the Land likewise; 
and therefore, O Great Sachim, beyond the Great Lakes, awake, and suffer not 
those poor Indians, that have given themselves and their Lands under your 
Protection, to be destroyed by the French without a Cause.” 

The last Treaty we shall speak to you about is that made at Albany by Gov- 
ernor Spotswood , which you have not recited as it is: For the white People, 
your Brethren of Virginia, are, in no Article of that Treaty, prohibited to pass, 
and settle to the Westward of the Great Mountains. It is the Indians, tributary 
to Virginia, that are restrained, as you and your tributary Indians are from 
passing to the Eastward of the same Mountains, or to the Southward of Cohon- 
gorooton, and you agree to this Article in these Words: That the Great River of 
Potoivmack, and the high Ridge of Mountains, which extend all along the 
Frontiers of Virginia to the Westward of the present Settlements of that Colony, 
shall be for ever the established Boundaries between the Indians subject to the 
Dominions of Virginia, and the Indians belonging and depending on the Five 
Nations; so that neither our Indians shall not, on any Pretence whatsoever, pass 
to Northward or Westward of the said Boundaries, without having to produce 
a Passport under the Hand and Seal of the Governor or Commander in Chief of 
Virginia ; nor your Indians to pass to the Southward or Eastward of the said 
Boundaries, without a Passport in like Manner from the Governor or Com- 
mander in Chief of New-York. 

And what Right can you have to Lands that you have no Right to walk upon, 
but upon certain Conditions ? It is true, you have not observed this Part of the 
Treaty, and your Brethren of Virginia have not insisted upon it with a due 
Strictness, which has occasioned some Mischief. 

This Treaty has been sent to the Governor of Virginia by Order of the Great 
King, and is what we must rely on, and, being in Writing, is more certain than 



your Memory. That is the Way the white People have of preserving Transac- 
tions of every Kind, and transmitting them down to their Childrens Children 
for ever, and all Disputes among them are settled by this faithful kind of Evi- 
dence, and must be the Rule between the Great King and you. This Treaty 
your Sachims and Warriors signed some Years after the same Governor Spots- 
wood, in the Right of the Great King, had been, with some People of Virginia , 
in Possession of these very Lands, which you have set up your late Claim to. 

The Commissioners for Indian Affairs at Albany gave the Account we men- 
tioned to you Yesterday to the Governor of New-York, and he sent it to the 
Governor of Virginia; their Names will be given you by the Interpreter. 


This Dispute is not between Virginia and you; it is setting up your Right 
against the Great King, under whose Grants the People you complain of are 
settled. Nothing but a Command from the Great King can remove them; they 
are too powerful to be removed by any Force of you, our Brethren; and the 
Great King, as our common Father, will do equal Justice to all his Children; 
wherefore we do believe they will be confirmed in their Possessions. 

As to the Road you mention, we intended to prevent any Occasion for it, 
by making a Peace between you and the Southern Indians, a few Years since, 
at a considerable Expence to our Great King, which you confirmed at Albany. 
It seems, by your being at War with the Catawbas, that it has not been long 
kept between you. 

However, if you desire a Road, we will agree to one on the Terms of the 
Treaty you made with Colonel Spotswood, and your People, behaving them- 
selves orderly like Friends and Brethren, shall be used in their Passage through 
Virginia with the same Kindness as they are when they pass through the Lands 
of your Brother Onas. This, we hope, will be agreed to by you our Brethren, 
and we will abide by the Promise made to you Yesterday. 

We may proceed to settle what we are to give you for any Right you may 
have, or have had to all the Lands to the Southward and Westward of the 
Lands of your Brother the Governor of Maryland, and of your Brother Onas ; 
tho’ we are informed that the Southern Indians claim these very Lands that 
you do. 

We are desirous to live with you, our Brethren, according to the old Chain 
of Friendship, to settle all these Matters fairly and honestly; and, as a Pledge 
of our Sincerity, we give you this Belt of Wampum. 

Shortly after this speech the treaty was signed by the Indian chiefs 
and by the members of the Commission. Its provisions called for the 
cession of all lands "that were and should be claimed by the Indians 
within the province of Virginia’’ for the consideration of about $2,000. 
Likewise, the lands they claimed in Maryland were confirmed to that 
Colony, the Indians agreeing "not to come again east of the Allegheny 
Mountains or South of the Potomac.” Thus England acquired and con- 
firmed in one stroke its claim to the Ohio basin, and simultaneously 
protected its northwestern colonial frontier in America. 

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Facsimile of the instructions from Governor Gooch providing for the appointment of 
the Virginia commission to negotiate the Treaty of Lancaster. 

+U . 




For some years after the making of the Lancaster Treaty the settle- 
ment of the newly-acquired lands remained a problem to the Colony. 
Virginia, like her sister provinces, Pennsylvania and Maryland, claimed 
these "waste lands” to the west, and slowly her more adventurous 
spirits made their way over the mountains. Grants had been given the 
veterans of the wars with France, and pressure was being brought to 
bear upon the Colony to protect their settlements. These difficulties 
during 1744, together with dangers of Indian attacks and French ag- 
gression, had in the first place led Lee to project the Treaty of Lancaster. 
The purchase of lands from the Iroquois then seemed at once a solution 
for Virginia’s own problems and the opening of a vast territory to 
British settlement. 

The purchase, however, was but the first stage of this project which 
Lee had so long cherished. It was now obvious that the haphazard 
colonization of the Ohio basin by private individuals could not con- 
tinue. Many of these settlers were little better than squatters, ill- 
equipped for the rigors of frontier life. An easy prey to Indian attack, 
they were a constant source of anxiety for their own sake and because 
they were invitation to raids nearer the heart of the Colony. According- 
ly, Lee turned over in his mind ways and means of settling the territory 
under the auspices of a land company. This was in line with the British 
colonial policy of encouraging expansion by offering rich rewards to 
speculators. There was money to be made in developing a new market, 
but first the market had to be created by the planting of settlements 
underwritten and protected by the company. In this way the Virginia 
Company and the Massachusetts Bay Company had been not only specu- 
lative ventures but also the instruments of British expansion as well. 

Early in 1749, Indian troubles, largely instigated by the French, were 
again imminent; and Lee saw that the time was ripe to press his plans 
for such a company. He, therefore, interested a number of his Maryland 
and Virginia friends in entering into association with a group of Lon- 
don merchants to form the Ohio Companv. The original American 
members were Thomas Nelson, Colonel William Thornton, William 
Nimmo, Daniel Cresap, John Carlyle, George Fairfax, Jacob Giles, Na- 
thaniel Chapman, and Joseph Woodrup. 2 . Lee was named president. 

2 Other members who joined several years later were Governor Dinwiddie. George Mason, 
John Mercer and his three sons, George. James, and John Francis: Richard Lee of Lee Hall, 
Thomas Ludwell Lee, Philip Ludwell Lee, John Tayloe, Gawen Corbin, Presley Thornton, Rev. 

James Scott, and Lomax. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XII, 

No. 1, July, 1904, p. 162-163. 



The company’s petition to the Privy Council solicited a grant of 500,- 
000 acres for "settling the countrys upon the Ohio and extending Brit- 
ish trade beyond the mountains on the western confines of Virginia.’’ 
Two hundred thousand acres were to be selected immediately; the com- 
pany was to pay no quitrents for ten years, but was to settle one hundred 
families within a seven-year period. It was also to build a fort at its own 
expense and maintain a garrison for defense against the Indians. 

Negotiations dragged on for months. On March 16, 1759, the peti- 
tion was granted by the Council. At length the Board of Trade ordered 
the governor of Virginia to pass the grant, and the Ohio Land Company 
was chartered July 12, 1749. The noted explorer, Christopher Gist, was 
employed to examine and survey the lands. Arrangements were made 
for the purchase of stocks of goods to the value of £4,000, and emigrants 
from the Colony were soon on their way west. 

During his long term as administrator of the Colony, Lieutenant Gov- 
ernor Gooch had not shown great enthusiasm for Councillor Lee’s 
project. Although he had appointed the commissioners, he had never 
insisted upon authorization of their expenses; and payment finally de- 
volved upon Lee and Beverley, chiefly upon the former. Gooch’s failing 
health may have been partly responsible for his lack of interest. His 
request for retirement on this account was granted in the summer of 
1749, and he returned to his home in England. 

The President of the Council, a native Virginian, John Robinson, suc- 
ceeded Gooch as acting governor on August 14, and Thomas Lee, as 
ranking councillor, took Robinson’s place as president. A few weeks 
later Robinson died suddenly, and Lee, on September fifth, 1749, be- 
came acting governor of Virginia. Henceforth he was officially referred 
to in the State papers as "Thomas Lee, Esq., President of our Council 
and Commander in Chief of our Colony and Dominion.” 

At last in a position to push the development of the company’s plans 
more vigorously, Lee had at once to deal with difficulties of a new 
nature. This time it was not only the French who inspired the Indians 
to attack the new settlers, but also Englishmen from other colonies, who 
did not propose to see the Ohio Land Company take over lands which 
they considered their own. 

From Stratford, where he had planned and organized the company, 
Lee wrote to his friend Hamilton, who had succeeded Thomas as Gov- 
ernor of Pennsylvania: 



Stratford, 22d November 1749. 

I had the Pleasure to congratulate You on your arrival to your Government 
by the Favour of my Friend Mr. Strettell; I had great satisfaction when I heard 
of your being advanced to that Honourable Station, because I had a very great 
Esteem for You ever since I had the Honour to know You. 

Upon Sr. William Gooch’s leaving this Colony the Government here has 
devolved upon me as eldest Councellor, and I hope the good Agreement that 
will subsist between us will be of service to both Governments. 

I am sorry that so soon I am obliged to complain to You of the insidious 
behaviour, as I am informed, of some traders from your Province, tending to 
disturb the Peace of this Colony and to alienate the Affections of the Indians 
from Us. 

His Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant to some Gentlemen and 
Merchants of London and some of both sorts of this Colony, a large Quantity 
of Land West of the Mountains, the design of this Grant and one condition 
of it is to Erect and Garrison a Fort to protect our trade (from the French) 
and that of the neighboring Colonies, and by fair open Trade to engage the 
Indians in Affection to his Majestie’s Subjects to supply them with what they 
want so that they will be under no necessity to apply to the French, and to 
make a very strong Settlement on the Frontiers of this Colony, all which his 
Majesty has approved and directed his Governor here to assist the said Company 
in carrying their laudable design into Execution; but your Traders have pre- 
vailed with the Indians on the Ohio to believe that the Fort is to be a bridle for 
them, and that the roads which the Company are to make is to let in the 
Catawbas upon them to destroy them, and the Indians naturally jealous are so 
possessed with the truth of these insinuations that they threaten our Agents if 
they survey or make those roads that they have given leave to make, and by this 
the carrying the King’s Grant into execution is at present impracticable. Yet 
these are the Lands purchased of the Six Nations by the Treaty of Lancaster. 

I need not say any more to prevail with you to take the necessary means to put 
a stop to these mischievous practices of those Traders. We are informed that 
there is Measures designed by the Court of France that will be mischievous to 
these Colonys which will in Prudence oblige Us to unite and not divide the 
Interest of the King’s Subjects on the Continent. I am with Esteem & Respect, 

A few weeks later Lee sent this additional statement to the Pennsyl- 
vania governor: 

Stratford, 20th December, 1749. Sir, Since the Letter I had the Pleasure to 
write You I have found it necessary to write to the Lords of the Treasury desir- 
ing their Lordships to obtain the King’s Order for running the dividing Line 
betwixt this Colony and Yours, else many difficultys will arise upon the seating 
the Large Grants to the Westward of the Mountains. In the case of the Earl 
of Granville and Lord Fairfax this method was taken and Commissioners 
appointed by his Majesty and those noble Lords. I thought it proper to acquaint 



you with this Step that there might be no Surprize and that a matter of such 
Consequence may meet with as little Delay as the Nature of it will admit. I am 
with all possible Esteem, &c. 

Officially the trouble was smoothed over, but inter-colonial jealousy 
caused endless wrangles over boundaries and titles, long after the Ohio 
Land Company had ceased to exist. 

Lee did not live to see his company touch off the French and Indian 
War of 1754. Stirred by the influx of new families into territories to 
which she still laid claim, France sent Contrecoeur into the region to 
discourage further settlement by terrorization. At the forks of the Ohio 
the company’s fort to protect the settlers, being built by Virginia, was 
abandoned and later completed by Contrecoeur, who named it Fort 
Duquesne. With Braddock’s ill-fated expedition against it, the bloody 
wars for the Ohio Company’s lands began, to end only in 1763 with 
the recalling of settlers from the territory. 

The Ohio Land Company caused more blood to flow than did the 
great companies of Virginia and Massachusetts Bay. Nor did it work out 
a system of government which served as a foundation for colonial ad- 
ministration. But it did carry on the work begun at the Treaty of Lan 
caster. It helped to make the Ohio basin English soil. 


One of Thomas Lee’s greatest services to Virginia during his presi- 
dency was his success in dealing with Indians closer at hand than the 
Ohio Valley. Perhaps no man in Virginia was better prepared for such 
a service. In the seventeen years since his appointment to the Council, 
he had become thoroughly familiar with its Indian policy. Having been 
in council with the Six Nations, he knew the chiefs well; and he also 
had personal friendly relations with the southern Indians. 

One of the memorable acts of his administration was to save from 
extirpation an entire tribe of Indians friendly to British interests. The 
Iroquois, incited by the French, were secretly conspiring to attack their 
own kinspeople, the Catawbas, and wipe them out, to the last man. Lee 
was not one to be surprised by this bloody design. From sources which 
he did not reveal, he learned of the plot and warned the Catawbas in 
time to save them. These facts are known from a letter Lee received 
from the Board of Trade of Great Britain, written from Whitehall, 
September 1, 1750. 3 

“The original document is in the Virginia Miscellaneous Papers, in the Library of Congress 
So far as is known it has never appeared in print in any form. It is one of the very few signifi- 
cant papers extant which relates to Lee’s administration. 

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Facsimile of first page of original letter, dated Whitehall [London'] September 1, 17 SO, 
to Pi esident Lee from the Board of Trade and Plantations. 

Y/ T/n X/yy ' 



Under signature of the Right Honorable George Dunk, Earl of 
Halifax, First Lord Commissioner for Trade and Plantations, the Board 
commends Lee for his action and at the same time makes an interesting 
statement of British colonial policy in French and Indian relations: 

We are sensible of how great Importance it is to preserve the Amity and 
good Friendship of the Neighbouring Indians, particularly the Six Nations so 
powerful in themselves, who have been so long considered as His Majesty’s 
Subjects, and who possess so large a Tract of Country bordering upon His 
Majesty's Settlements; We are therefore very much concerned to hear that 
there was reason to apprehend that the Six Nations were engaged in a Design 
to extirpate the Catawbas, a People so well affected to the British Interest; You 
certainly did right in giving Intelligence to the Catawbas of this Design, but 
We still must hope that the French have not been able to prevail with the 
Six Nations to carry it into Execution. 

Your Intentions of Claiming the Assistance of the Indians to confirm the 
King’s Right to those Lands which were purchased at the Treaty of Lancaster 
in 1744, at the Time when you are to make a Present to the Six Nations, & to 
those Tribes of Indians seated on the River Ohio, is very prudent; and We do 
not doubt but you will improve the same Opportunity by endeavouring to 
cultivate a strict Harmony with the Six Nations, and dissuade them from 
entering into the Measures of the French in prejudice of His Majesty’s Subjects 
and of the Indians in Alliance with us. 

We are persuaded that you will in pursuance of your Instructions take all due 
Care to protect His Majesty’s Subjects under your Government in possession of 
their just Rights, and to prevent any Encroachments whatever upon his Maj- 
esty’s Territories. 

In return for his services to the Catawbas, Lee undoubtedly planned 
to claim their help in protecting His Majesty’s subjects in Virginia and 
also in confirming His Majesty’s right to the lands secured to Britain bv 
the Treaty of Lancaster. 

While the Catawbas must have looked upon President Lee as their 
friend and protector, he was acting more particularly as the protector of 
Virginia, since the Indians were a constant menace to the colonies and 
friendly relations with near-by tribes were a safeguard to colonial pros- 
perity. In this respect, Lee was endeavoring to carry out the charge of 
the Empire to "take all due care to protect his Majesty’s subjects.” 

It was important, too, that the Virginia colonists should be protected 
from Indian raids inspired by the French. Lee had his own sources of 
information on the French and Indian situation and was constantly alert 
for new developments. The Lords of Trade and Plantations understood 
the importance of such an attitude: 

We are glad to find the French have failed in their unjustifiable Attempts 
to stir up the Indians on the Ohio, against His Majesty’s Subjects, and as they 


are at this time so remarkably assiduous in their Endeavours to sow Discord 
amongst the several Nations of Indians in Amity with Us, you will not fail when 
you deliver His Majesty’s Presents to the Indians, to use all Means of Persuasion 
whereby their Affection to the British Interest in general may be secured; the 
Wavering confirmed; the Steady encouraged; all Differences amongst them- 
selves reconciled, and perfect Harmony established; And above all, no En- 
deavours must be wanting to prevent their entering into Measures with the 
French; either thro’ the Fear of Resentment, or the Hopes of Gain. 

At the time of the correspondence quoted, Lee was endeavoring to 
promote peace between the southern Indians and the Iroquois, and 
working for this end with Governor Clinton of New York. Clinton 
wrote Lee on August 7, 1750: 


Your Letter of the 6 th June and the 11 th July, I received the 4 th Instant: And 
have lately a Letter from Governour Glen, advising the great danger there is 
of the total destruction of the Cattawbas, as many Nations of Indians, far 
Superior to them in Number, have for some time past carried on a War against 
them and therefore desiring me to use my Endeavours with the Indians, over 
whom I have any influence, to dissuade them from going to War with the 
Creeks and Cattawbas. I have with the Advice of his Majesty’s Council taken 
what steps herein, we thought could be of any Service, and now write to M r . 
Glen, inclosing a Copy of the Treaty of Peace made between the Southern 
Indians and the five Nations, and urging the Necessity of the former sending 
their Deputies to Albany, as the only means by which a peace can be established 
between them. 

The Cattawbas might, I believe, be induced to come to Albany, notwith- 
standing their present Apprehensions; If they are told, that they may come 
thro Virginia and Pensilvania the lower way, with the greatest safety to this 
place, and from hence they will be under the protection of this Government, 
and it will be out of the Power of our Indians to do them any hurt, if they might 
otherwise have been disposed to revenge themselves: And we hope you will 
use your utmost Interest with the Cattawbas and other Southern Indians, to in- 
cline them to a meeting at Albany; which would be most effectual at the time 
I meet the five Nations there: When this will happen I cannot at present 
tell, but if the Southern Nations are willing to send their Deputies thither, I 
shall give you notice So that they may arrive in proper Season. 

I am very much 


Your very humble Servant 
G. Clinton 

Lee did not approve of this proposal for a meeting in New York State. 
Albany was in Iroquois country. It was far north and the long journey 
there was too dangerous for the Catawbas. He planned instead to bring 
the Six Nations to Fredericksburg and in Virginia smoke the pipe of 



peace. That the Board of Trade approved of this idea is shown from 
another paragraph in this same letter already quoted: 

We are glad you have received His Majesty’s Presents for the Indians of the 
Six Nations, & other Tribes upon the Ohio, if you succeed in your Design of 
Bringing them to Fredericksburg in your Colony, and inviting the Catawbas to 
meet them personally, to make a Peace there; all the Purposes which the Gov- 
ernor of New York could propose by their meeting at Albany will be answered. 

But plans for the Fredericksburg Council never materialized in Lee’s 

The colonial governor had to be both statesman and general. His 
military duties were specific and comprehensive. Empowered now as 
Commander in Chief of the Colony "to exercise control over all the cap- 
tains and soldiers” in territory administered by Virginia, Lee knew 
the strategic places to station them. He had the power to build and 
repair forts, batteries and fortifications, and provide them with ordnance. 
Part of his duties were to attend the different musters, make tours of 
inspection, and review the companies of rangers stationed at the heads 
of the rivers. 

On file in the Public Record Office, London, are President Lee’s re- 
ports of the account of munitions and stores of war at Williamsburg in 
both the magazine and the governor’s house, with an account of the 
condition of the guns "in ye sevl. Forts of Virginia in July 1750.” Copies 
of these original documents are at Williamsburg. 

The erection by Lee of a battery and lighthouse near the Southern 
Capes and of the prompt measures he took to repair damage done to 
Fort George are shown by another excerpt from the official letter from 

We have transmitted to His Majesty’s Secretary of State such Part of your 
Letter of the 12 th of June as relates to the Damage done to Fort George, and 
to Indian Affairs; but We have not received the Account of that Damage 
referred to in the Letter, nor the Estimate of the Cost of repairing the Fort; if 
the turning it into a Battery will answer the End (and that We must leave to 
your Judgement) it will be right to save the Expence of a compleat Repair of 
the Fort in its present Form. 

The erecting a Battery and Light House at or near the Southern Capes, ap- 
pears to Us, according to your account, to be equally advantageous to Naviga- 
tion and to the Security of the Colony; and the Method you propose of defraying 
the Charge by a Tonnage upon Shipping seems to be easy & reasonable. 

One incident in Lee’s administration points to his concern for the 
development and maintenance of religious freedom — "the Affair of 
Mr. Davi[e]s, the Presbyterian.” The Whitehall letter refers to some 


occurrence, now forgotten, when it was difficult to preserve freedom of 
speech and at the same time prevent religious disputes. The practical 
viewpoint of the British Lord of Trade as expressed in this letter is of 

With regard to the Affair of M r . Davi[e]s the Presbyterian; as Tolleration and 
a free Exercise of Religion is so valuable a Branch of true Liberty, and so 
essential to the enriching and improving of a Trading Nation, it should ever be 
held sacred in His Majesty’s Colonies; We must therefore earnestly recommend 
it to your Care, that nothing be done which can in the least affect their great 
Point; At the same time you will do well to admonish M r . Davi[e]s to make a 
proper Use of that Indulgence which our Laws so wisely grant to those who 
differ from the Established Church, and to be cautious not to afford any just 
Cause of Complaint to the Clergy of the Church of England, or to the People 
in General. 

Lee also supervised the repairs and reconstruction of the gardens of 
the Governor’s house at Williamsburg and the house itself, which had 
been rendered uninhabitable by fire. During his brief term as governor, 
so soon and so prematurely ended, he occupied the Castle at Green 

As "President of Virginia” or as "President and Commander in Chief 
of the Colony of Virginia,” Thomas Lee controlled all judicial, civil, 
and military appointments in the Colony during 1749-50, thus having, 
as William G. Stanard observes, in every sense the full power of gov- 
ernor. From Westmoreland County Records are the following items: 

Court-orders, 1747-50, p. 127, June 27, 1749. 

A Commission from the Honourable Sir William Gooch, Baronet to James 
Steptoe, Gent, to be Sheriff of this County &c. Sd. James having taken the 
oaths &c. was Sworn &c. 

P. 128. 

Wm. Monroe, Gent presented a Commission from Honh le Sir Wm. Gooch, 
Baronet appointing him Capt. of Foot Soldiers. 

P. 203, June 7, 1750. 

Fleet Cox, Gent. Presented a Commission from The Honble Thomas Lee, Esq. 
President appointing him the said Fleet Cox One of the Inspectors of Tobacco 
at Yeocomico & Rusts Warehouses in this county, who being Sworn according 
to Law is hereby ordered to Enter in the Execution of the said Office. 

Court-orders, 1750-52, p. 4, Aug. 28, 1750. 

Benjamin Weeks, Gent, presented a Commission from the President of 
Virginia appointing him Capt. of a Company of foot Soldiers in the County 
and in Pursuance thereof took the Oath to the Crown and Subscribed the Test. 

In addition to the giving of such appointments Thomas Lee had the 
full authority to make land grants, a power vested only in the governor. 
That he lsed this power wisely is shown by his interest in the develop- 



ment of the country "to the westward’’ in Virginia and his activity in 
opening opportunities for settlement by responsible and representative 
families who would build up this part of Virginia. In the Land Office 
at Richmond there are 364 pages of grants alone under the signature of 
Thomas Lee. The usual form of such grants is shown in the following 
two, quoted with the form of witness signature to the letters patent, as 
found in Book 29: 

December 15, 1749 
400 Acres to Matthew — [p. 1] 

400 A. to Jos. Adcock [p. 2] 

291 A. to Nicholas [p. 3] 

November 3, 1750 

200 Acres to Nathaniel Davis [p. 325] 

180 A. to Benj. Bennett [p. 364], 

In Witness whereof we have caused these our Letters Patent to be made — 
Witness our trusty and well beloved Thomas Lee, Esq. President of our 
Council and Commander-in-Chief of our Colony and Dominion at Williams- 
burg, under the Seal of our said Colony the third Day of November 1750 

Thomas Lee President. 

The records, cited in this chapter, probably represent but a fraction of 
the work Thomas Lee accomplished in the fourteen months of his ad- 
ministration; for his tasks— military, judicial, diplomatic, and civil — 
were a burden for any one man. 

When illness first overcame him in June, 1750, he was forced to leave 
Williamsburg for a brief rest. Virginia’s dependence on him is clearly 
shown in the fragment of a letter (unaddressed and undated) in the 
papers of William Dawson in the Library of Congress: 

The Preside has been ever since at the back Springs — and as the old Laws 
expired and the new Body took place on the 11th of June during his absence, 
we have been a country without Justices since that time for want of commis- 
sions being signed for the several Counties. He is now on his return at Urbanna. 

Back again in Williamsburg, Thomas Lee did not spare himself. 
His signature on civil documents, land grants, and other official papers, 
appears on these records until within a few days of his death at Strat- 
ford on the fourteenth of November, 1750. His directions for his 
funeral services were included in the will: 

Having observed much indecent mirth at Funerals, I desire that Last Piece 
of Human Vanity be Omitted and that attended only by some of those friends 
and Relations that are near, my Body may be silently intered with only the 
Church Ceremony and that a Funeral sermon for Instruction to the living be 
Preached at the Parish Church near Stratford on any other Day. 

The careful instructions for his burial, also left in his will, were carried 

The long-lost inscription on the monument to Thomas Lee at Pope's Creek Church, writ- 
ten by Richard Henry Lee. Preserved in a memorandum book by Thomas Lee Ship pen. 

The glare of Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee in Burnt House Fields. 



out to the letter: his coffin was placed between that of his wife and his 
mother. The bricks on the side next to Hannah Lee’s grave were moved 
and her husband’s body placed close beside hers as he had directed . 4 

Engraved upon their tomb are these lines: 

Here lies Buried the Hon’ble Col. Thomas Lee, Who dyed 14 November, 
1750; Aged 60 years; and his beloved wife, Mrs. Hannah Lee. She departed 
this life 25 January, 1749-50. Their monument is erected in the lower church 
of Washington Parish, in this County; five miles above their Country seat, Strat- 
ford Hall. 

In the churchyard of this "lower church of Washington Parish,’’ 
Pope’s Creek Church, parish church of the Stratford Lees and the 
Washingtons, Thomas Lee’s eldest son Philip raised a monument to his 
parents "of parti-coloured marble’’ and the inscription was written by 
their fifth son, Richard Henry Lee : 5 

This monument was erected to y e memory of the honorable Col. 0 Thomas 
Lee Commander in chief and President of his Majesty’ s Council for this Colony 
— descended from the very antient and honorable family of Lee in Shropshire 
who died Nov. 4 th 1 750 aged 60 years. 

Sacred to lee this reverential pile 
Reader lament superior worth a while 
Late what he was these faithful lines declare 
An upright governor — - example rare 
Public or private in each station just 
Ambitious only to discharge his trust 
Virtue of all his views the means and end 
To Country & to Court alike a friend 
This nice but happy secret still he knew 
To be the ruler & the patriot too — 

Nor less distinguished for the social trust 

Of all that can adorn a man possess’d 

To native parts he added y e acquir’d 

And was himself the scholar he admir’d 

Call’d to no bar nor bred to plead a cause 

Y et as a Hardwick learned in the Laws 

Warm in his friendship as he was sincere 

A father & a husband truly dear 

Heaven’s favorite virtue daily he desplay’ d 

And thousands felt this charitable aid 

If we look back to Alan’s primeval Earth 

Could Paradise be fraught with more celestial worth. 

Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus tarn cari capitis. 0 

J This was ascertained in quite recent years when the new wall was built around Burnt House 
Fields and repairs made there by the Society of the Lees of Virginia. 

‘Original unpublished document recorded by Thomas Lee Shippen, discovered by the writer 
and loaned by Dr. Lloyd P. Shippen. 

6 What limit can there be to our regret at the loss of so dear a friend. 



P RESIDENT LEE’S death in the prime of life and at the peak of 
his service for Virginia, was widely mourned. William Nelson of 
York wrote the family November 17, 1750: "I am verv sensible of 
the general loss We have sustained in the Death of our truly good 
President; on which melancholy occasion I heartily condole with You.” 
Thomas Lee of Stratford Hall was a man for whom other men seemed 
to have an exceptional liking and admiration. Many personal testi- 
monies, references, and items in wills, documents, and letters prove 
this circumstance. When Lee’s brother-in-law William Fitzhugh of 
Eagle’s Nest died, he appointed Lee the guardian of his children. When 
Henry Lee made his will July 30, 1746, he appointed his brother 
Thomas guardian of his son Henry and his daughter Lettice. He said 
further, ' It is my desire that my Wife and three Sons do in the man- 
agement of their Estate take advice of my two Brothers The Hon’ble 
Thomas Lee Esq. and Col°. William Beverley.” When one of Lee’s 
friends and neighbors, William Chanler, was in a dilemma about the 
confidential making and depositing of his will — "not that he was afraid 
of his wife but did not want to live uneasy with her,” — he sought the 
counsel of Thomas Lee. 

Even the irascible and eccentric John Custis of Arlington, on the 
Eastern Shore, was devoted to Thomas Lee and gave him a ring in testi- 
mony of his friendship. Colonel John Tayloe of Mount Airy had a 
warm affection for his friend and neighbor of the Northern Neck and 
in his will left Lee a mourning ring, a mourning suit, and two hundred 
and fifty pounds. Both Colonel Grymes and Colonel Lightfoot also 
bequeathed mourning rings to Thomas Lee. His friend Colonel Thomp- 
son left him his gun and his riding horse. 

Five of President Lee’s sons were to honor his memory throughout 
their lives by acts of public service unsurpassed in the histories of Ameri- 
can families. In them were to be exemplified the constructive influences 
of their father’s character and life. 

As the eldest of the family and heir-at-law of his father’s estate, 
Philip Ludwell Lee was now master of Stratford and was charged with 
the care and education of his younger brothers and his little sister. 
Thomas was also an executor of their father’s will, and with Philip, was 
appointed guardian of the younger children. He was only in his twen- 
tieth year and Philip was twenty-four. Living elsewhere were the other 

[ 88 ] 



two executors and guardians, their kinsmen, Richard and Gawen Cor- 
bin. Philip appears to have had matters in his own hands. 

Thomas Lee left to each one of his six sons and two daughters specific 
legacies in land, negroes, stock, money, or personal belongings. His 
large estate included lands in six counties: Westmoreland, Northumber- 
land, Stafford, Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun. To Philip, as the 
eldest son, came the major portion of the estate, Stratford Hall with 
its messuages and appurtenances and its more than six thousand acres: 
"I give and devise to my Eldest son all my Lands in the County of 
Westmoreland and Northumberland,” ran the lines of Thomas Lee’s 
will, "to my Eldest son and the heirs male and his body Lawfully be- 
gotten forever. . . . 

"Item. I give and bequeath to my Eldest son and his heirs forever all 
my Lands on the Eastern Shoare of Maryland and called Rehoboth, my 
two Islands, Moreton and Eden in Cohongaronto or Potomack, 3,600 
on the broad run of Potomac and to include half the good land on 
Cohongaronto or Potomac, which is mv first Patent, Survey by Thomas 
Stooper Surveyor and all my Land at or near the falls of the Potomac in 
three Patents or deeds Containing in the three Patents above 3,000 acres, 
all these Lands, I give my Eldest son in fee simple and I give my said son 
all the Utensils on the said Lands. . . . 

"Item. I give to my Eldest son one hundred Negroes about ten vears 
old, and all of and under that age on the Lands I have given him but what 
above a 100 yt are above ten vrs old to be divided as hereafter is men- 
tioned, and in this Gift to make up the numbers, I give all my Trades- 
men. all which Negroes young and old I annex to the Land given my 
Eldest son to pass and Descend with the said Lands as the Law Com- 
monly Called the Explanatory Law directs.” 

His wishes in regard to the manner and method of the settlement of 
his estate were definitely expressed: 

"Item. My Will is and I accordingly desire yt my whole Estate be 
kept together till all my debts and Legacies be settled and Paid. Item. I 
will and Devise yt if any of my younger children dye before twenty one yt 
in such case that Legacy be p'd in equal parts to such other as live to be 
twenty one, that is my two daughters and my youngest sons. Item. I 
give to my Second Son mv Gold watch and seal. Item. I Give all the 
Rest and Residue of my Estate to my Eldest son and his heirs forever, 
and the several Bequests and Legacies heretofore given I give in lieu and 
full satisfaction of their Filial portions and so I desire it mav be taken 

Northeast dependency of the Great House, probably the Stratford School. 



and understood, and I hope I have Expressed so plainly that a Lawyer 
will not find room to make Constructions prejudicial to mv Family.” 
At the time their father died, Philip Ludwell, Thomas Ludwell, and 
Richard Henry were still in England. Philip was studying law at the 
Inner Temple in London; Thomas Ludwell’s school or chambers are not 
recorded; Richard Henry was completing his final year at Wakefield 
Academy in Yorkshire. The two older boys appear to have returned at 
once to Virginia, but Richard Henry remained to complete his course at 
the grammar school and to make the European tour, evidently pre- 

Early in the new year of 1751 it would appear that six of the Lee 
children were at Stratford: Philip Ludwell and Thomas Ludwell; 
Francis Lightfoot, aged sixteen; Alice, about fourteen; William, in his 
twelfth year; and Arthur, the youngest, ten years old. 

Of the eleven children born to Thomas and Hannah Lee, three had 
died: Richard, their first born, Lucy, and John. Their names and birth 
dates are all that is known of them. Hannah was the only member of 
the Stratford family who in the late 1740’s was married. The wife of 
Gawen Corbin, she was now mistress of Peckatone Plantation, distant 
some twenty miles from Stratford — a long way at that time. 

When it came to the kind of education his children should have, 
Thomas Lee had practical ideas. "I desire and impower my Ex’ors 
who I appoint Guardians to my children,” he wrote, "to educate my 
children in such manner as they think fitt Religiously and virtuously and 
if necessary to bind them to any profession or Trade, soe that they mav 
Learn to get their Living honestly.” 

One of the dependencies of the Great House was no doubt used as 
the Stratford School and the lodging of the tutors. It was probably the 
northeast building. According to the local historian of the Northern 
Neck (in the eighteen-eighties), Rev. George Washington Beale: 

Much of the educational training of the sons and daughters of Stratford was 
derived from private tutors, engaged in Scotland, who, here gained their early 
impression of the New World. How much the intellectural force and acumen 
exhibited by the founders of the Republic was indebted to teachers of this 
class, it would not be easy to determine. Two of these employed at Stratford 
were the Rev. David Currie, afterwards, for more than fifty years, rector in 
Lancaster; and the Rev. William Douglass, who also numbered among his 
pupils James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. Several of Mr. (Thomas) Lee’s 
sons, who subsequently became eminent, were sent to England or Scotland for 
the completion of their education. 


From this statement it would appear that the three older boys were 
prepared for their English schools by Dr. Currie and Dr. Douglass. 
The Rev. Mr. Craig was the tutor at Stratford in later years, probably 
during the decade from 1746 to 1756, when he instructed Francis Light- 
foot Lee, Alice, William, and, for a brief space, little Arthur. Under 
the regime of Philip Ludwell the Stratford School continued in session. 

In speaking of Arthur, the youngest of the family, his biographer, R. 
H. Lee (his great nephew) says: "according to the customs of that day, 
in regard to the younger sons, [he] was left, until an advanced period 
of boyhood, with the children of his father’s slaves; to partake of their 
fare, and to participate in their hardy sports and toils. Hence his body 
was early inured to hardship and his mind accustomed to unrestrained 
exercise and bold adventure.” 

The child was only eight years old when his gentle mother died. Ac- 
cording to surviving letters Arthur and William were treated with sever- 
ity by their elder brother Philip. William, especially, wrote him bitterly: 
"certainly to be twelve years out of my pittance which my father left me, 
without even common interest for it, while you have been indulging in 
affluence and I, procuring my bread with the sweat of my brow, is surely 
bad enough and it is time to put an end to it.” The restrictions appar- 
ently imposed by Philip on the family may have had a part in helping to 
fan the spirit of personal independence in his five brothers. 

At Stratford, as in many planters’ homes, it was the custom for several 
children of relatives or friends to come for visits of many months or 
even several years’ duration and attend school with the children of the 
family. In 1753 William James Lewis was among the visitors attending 
school at Stratford with Francis Lightfoot, Alice and William Lee. 
A court record of February 28th of this year shows that the personal 
property of Billy Lewis was stolen by one James Gall who was "Com- 
mitted to the Goal of the County aforesd for breaking and Entering the 
house of Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. and Stealing from thence goods and 
Money to the Value of Six pounds at Least, the Property of William 
James Lewis.” 

Life at Stratford finally became happier because the children appealed 
to the Court for a new guardian — their cousin, Henry Lee, the son of 
their father’s favorite brother. With his appointment and Richard 
Henry’s return the difficulties with Philip must have been greatly 

Arthur was sent to school at Eton, England, between 1751 and 1752. 

Captain Henry Lee of Lee Hall and Leesylvaiiia, father of Light-Horse Harry Lee and 
guardian of the Stratford children: from an original portrait by an unknown artist. 



Richard Henry Lee returned to Stratford in 1752. Considerate and 
interested in his younger brothers, he did much to endear himself to 
them and to influence them in their future careers. 

His grandson R. H. Lee, in his Memoir of Richard Henry Lee says of 
his education: 

At this early period of the colony, there were few seminaries of learning in 
which the higher branches of education were taught. The youths, whose parents 
were able to bear the expense, were always sent "home” (as it was then ex- 
pressed) to England, to complete their studies. Accordingly, Richard H. Lee, 
after having received a grammatical education in his father’s house, under the 
care of a private teacher, was sent to England, and placed at the academy of 
Wakefield, in Yorkshire. 

Anecdotes of the juvenile years of those, who afterwards become conspicuous 
on the theatre of the world, when indicative of character, are both pleasing and 
instructive. It is related of Mr. Lee, that when a boy, knowing he was to be 
sent to England, it was his custom to make a stout negro boy fight with him 
every day. To his angry father’s question, "what pleasure can you find in such 
rough sport,” the son replied, "I shall shortly have to box with the English 
boys, and I do not wish to be beaten by them.” 

At the academy of Wakefield, by the aid of skilful teachers, and by his own 
attention and capacity, he made rapid progress in the academical course of study, 
particularly the Latin and Greek languages: his admiration of the nervous 
energy of the one, and the grace and melody of the other, exhibited, at an early 
age, maturity and correctness of taste. 

Richard Henry faced other complications outside of Stratford’s four 
walls — far more grave, indeed. The effort begun by his father at Lan- 
caster to have Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania make common 
cause of common dangers, was only in its inception when the Com- 
mander in Chief died. In the several years after his death the compli- 
cations of the French and Indian situation increased; and war was im- 
pending. In a desperate effort to fend off disaster, Governor Dinwiddie 
sent his protest to the French at Fort Le Boeuf. The messenger he ap- 
pointed to carry that protest was a Westmoreland County lad — George 
Washington. Young Washington of Bridges’ Creek — the next planta- 
tion but one to Stratford — was among the earliest friends and play- 
mates of the Stratford Lees. The man who was to be Washington’s 
chief guide and helper in that long trek through the wilderness was 
Christopher Gist, whom Thomas Lee had appointed as the first path- 
finder of the wild Allegheny country. 

Soon the storm would break. The friendship of the Iroquois, won for 



the colonies by Thomas Lee at Lancaster, was to prove one of the bul- 
warks of England’s protection in the French and Indian War. 

Richard Henry offered himself and his company of Virginians to 
General Braddock to help fight the French. Braddock turned them 
down as "provincials.” So the life at Stratford during the years between 
1750 and 1760, though set against the background of the French and 
Indian war and its aftermath, had no immediate part in it. The Lee 
boys, no doubt, followed eagerly all news of the brave campaign of 
their friend, Washington, but were not to be participants with him in 
the struggle. 

Richard Henry Lee spent these stormy years quietly at Stratford. 
From his father’s library he secured what was, for him, the equivalent 
of the university course which might have supplemented his grammar 
school work at Wakefield Academy had his father lived. To again quote 
his biographer, R. H. Lee: 

Although he [Richard Henry] at this period passed a life of ease and pleas- 
ure, it was not one of idleness; active and energetic, he was always in search of 
knowledge — and the very extensive library which his father had collected, fur- 
nished him ample means of gratifying his desire for intellectual improvement. 
From the works of the immortal Locke, he acquired an ardent fondness for the 
principles of free government; and from those of Cudworth, Hooker, Grotius, 
and other writers of the same class, he drew maxims of civil and political 
morality. He read with deep attention and admiration, the histories of the 
patriotic and republican ages of Greece and Rome, which animated his love of 
his country, and of liberty. The anarchy which too often disgraced their gov- 
ernments, taught him the value of well defined constitutions, to guard indi- 
viduals from the consequences of the prejudices of the many, and the public 
prosperity from the effects of popular passion and caprice. 

His taste was refined by reading the works of the classic poets, both ancient 
and modern. Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Shakespeare, were his favorite authors 
— of the last he was enthusiastically fond. The best histories of every age were 
within his reach; and the vast fund of political wisdom derived from them was 
strikingly exhibited, when, in future life, he called for its use in the service of 
his country. 

Mr. Lee, without any view to the practice, made himself well acquainted with 
the principles of the civil law, and the laws of his own country. He applied his 
mind with particular care, to the study of the history, and the constitution, of 
England and her colonies. The popular features of these governments attracted 
his admiration. He was delighted with the free spirit of the nation from which 
he was descended. 

The author has in his possession, the manuscript digests and synopses of the 
works read by Mr. Lee, during his residence with his brother; they discover the 
habits and mode of his study; their arrangement is new and always judicious; 



the subjects are well illustrated, and the views of the authors, when given, are 
concisely expressed, and happily condensed. To this early mode of study, he 
was, no doubt, indebted for that conciseness of style, of which he afterwards was 
as much a master, as he was of brilliant and impressive amplification. 

From this it can be seen that Richard Henry gave much time to care- 
ful, systematic study: self-instruction which proved later to be prepara- 
tion for the career which was to mean so much to the making of the new 

Three of the famous group of the five patriot brothers, Thomas Lud- 
well, Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot, studied law at Stratford. 
Before 1760 they were Gentlemen Justices in Westmoreland as their 
father had been. Step by step, from the smallest county office to state 
and thence to national affairs, they were to move just as their father had 
done. Every generation of Lees in Virginia had carried on the tradition 
of service to King and Colony. Thomas Lee’s sons at Stratford had the 
record of this service to consider. Undoubtedly they took pride in it and 
realized their own responsibility to uphold it. 

In England, for a brief period, Philip had studied law at the Inner 
Temple in London. He was never the student his brothers were. 1 In 
Virginia he began his legal career as justice of the peace in Westmore- 
land County. 

He had been initiated by his father into at least one phase of the 
Colony’s affairs when he went in 1744 with the embassy to negotiate 
the Treaty of Lancaster. So high was the esteem in which his father 
was held that honors, dignities, and high county and state appointments 
came to Philip, as his father’s eldest son and the representative of the 
family at Stratford. Philip was only twenty-four years old when Gov- 
ernor Dinwiddie appointed him Leftenant and Commander in Chief of 
Westmoreland County, November 27, 1752. Four years later Philip was 
Presiding Justice, and also Burgess for Westmoreland. Eventually he 
succeeded his father as a member of His Majesty’s Council. 

During the late 1750’s Philip and his brother Francis explored the 
lands in the upper country of Virginia which were left them by their 
father. When Loudoun County was formed from Fairfax in 1757 it 
included many acres belonging to Thomas Lee’s sons. The county seat, 
Leesburg, established in 1758, was named for the Stratford Lees, and 
both Philip and Francis were among the trustees appointed for the 

’The very copy of the “Lord Coke’s Institutes” as he termed them, with which he labored 
is today in the possession of The Robert E. Lee Foundation, with his boyish comment on “My 
great and noble Lord Coke.” 



town. Several years later Francis was to live there for a long period 
and to represent the county as Burgess. 

Philip was always far more interested in breeding thoroughbreds, in 
farming the Stratford Plantation, and in building up the Stratford mills 
and waterfront than ever he was in the classics, law, or politics. Not even 
in his father’s time had there been such large shipments of tobacco, so 
much mill and carpenter work done. The very exigencies of the situation 
may have caused Philip’s severity to his brothers and the servants. Items 
in the court records give an accounting of petitions for justice presented 
bv various indentured servants of Philip Lee’s from time to time. The 
following record of July 31, 1754 is one of several: 

Richard Mynatt presented his petition to this Court vs. Philip Ludwell Lee, 
Esq. Setting forth that he had served out the time for which he was indented 
and that the sd. Lee refused to give him a discharge, the sd. Lee appeared and 
the matter fully debated and upon mature consideration thereon had by the 
Court they adjudged him free and Ordered that the Clerk give him a certificate. 

At this period of Philip Lee’s career his picture is drawn by a certain 
itinerant British tradesman, one George Fisher by name. In the spring of 
1750, Fisher left London and came to Virginia to start business in 
Williamsburg. From Henry Wetherburn, the keeper of the Raleigh 
Tavern, he leased a large house near the Capitol, known as "The English 
Coffee House,” where he purposed to deal in "Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, 
Arrack, Claret, Madeira and other Wines, English Beer, French Brandv, 
Rum, and several other articles, both from Europe, New York, Phila- 
delphia, and the West Indies, proposing too as mv house was large and 
in front particularly, to divide and let it out into several distinct Tene- 

From "The Narrative of George Fisher,” published in William and 
Alary Quarterly, Series I, XVII, the following characterization and de- 
scription of Philip Ludwell Lee are given: 

I entered on my House the 29th September 1751; and I made this alteration 
about the Christmas following, vizt. four months after. I had not entered upon 
executing this last Resolution above a Fortnight or Three weeks before a strange 
Mortal stalked into my house, in the garb or habit of one of our Common 
Soldiers (a thing then rarely to be met with, tho’ extremely it seems affected by 
this singular Person whom I had then not the least knowledge of) and de- 
manded to see some of my rooms, which he was informed I proposed to let. 

He had no servant with him, but an arrogant, hauty carriage, which in the 
opinion of most men is a necessary or insepparable accomplishment in what they 
call a Person of Note, would at once indicate to you that in his own thoughts he 
was a person of no mean Rank or Dignity. The pride of sometimes putting on 
mean clothes or going unattended, I had seen before, but none to appear to me 



so ridiculously as now. However, I showed him my rooms, and treated him 
with the same deference and respect as even in his own sentiments he had a 
right to expect, supposing also I had known him. We had some talk about the 
price of several apartments, but he soon let me understand that his design was 
upon my Whole House, he modestly proposing that I should resign the Lease 
I had taken of it to him, and take off from his hands another house in Town 
which he had hired, but did not like, tho’ to evince his great kindness and 
condescendesion in the matter, he assured me the house, which he proposed to 
favor me with, was much better one than mine, would come at less rent and 
would likewise suit my intended business better- -and he named the house to 
me ---vizt. that Dr. Dixon quitted. 

As to which house was the best, I assured him it was a matter that I would 
not presume to dispute; but humbly craved his leave to be of a different opinion 
as to the convincing of dividing it into various departments. Its vicinity also to 
the Capitol, I as I likewise craved leave to inform him, gave it the preference in 
(my) humble apprehension, as its situation for business, on which I said 
chiefly depended; besides — as I ventured to observe, the roominess of mine, 
when Mr. Wetherburn had repaired it, would enable me to let out so much 
thereof as would absolutely pay the whole of my rent, reserving what would be 
quite sufficient to carry on my own business. To this he replied I was under a 
great mistake and delusion if I preferred to think Mr. Wetherburn would ever 
repair the House while I continued in it, or would grant me any further Lease 
when the Three Years was expired; that he would not have me flatter myself 
with the vain idea or reaping any of the benefits 1 had proposed; for I should 
only deceive myself therein. The best thing I could do was to take his generous 
offer, and that if I did not, I should surely repent it. To all which I only en- 
treated he would allow me to suspend my thinking Mr. Wetherburn had any 
intention of acting so dishonorably by me; and that I must at least experience 
somewhat of what he was pleased to assure me should happen, before it was in 
my power to believe it possible. 

Upon my saying this, he turned immediately out of the house seemingly very 
much offended. However in less than an hour, he sent his servant who in- 
formed me it was his master’s order that I should attend him immediately at 
Mr. Wetherburn’s and on my enquiring of the servant, who his master was, he 
seemed surprised at my not knowing that it was Col. Lee, eldest Son and heir 
to the late President of the Council. On my arrival at Mr. Wetherburn’s the 
noble Col. : with a haughtiness peculiar to himself (as being in the superlative 
degree to any I had ever beheld, even in this Country) informed me that since 
I refused to credit him on the affair we had been talking about, he had sent for 
me to receive satisfaction upon the subject from Mr. Wetherburn himself, and 
closing the whole of his genteel behaviour with observing if I still persisted in 
my obstinacy in refusing him my house, I might have time to repent of it. He 
turned from me with an air of what they call a Gentleman. 

Thus the narrative goes on at some length, showing in vivid detail the 
viewpoint of the Williamsburg tradesman. In the absence of any account 



from the pen of Philip Ludwell his side of the episode is not known. 
The full significance of the narrative, therefore, cannot be determined. 
No doubt Philip was self-important and pompous. Perhaps he felt that, 
as head of the House of Lee, his voice was not to be questioned. At the 
same time, insofar as the management and development of Stratford 
Plantation went, he evidenced more practical ability than any other 
member of the family. 

The properties of Thomas Lee were widely scattered, and this fact may 
account in some degree for the long period of time taken by Philip — at 
least eight years — to have the estate appraised and inventories taken of 
the goods and furnishings of Stratford Hall. To William’s sharp com- 
plaints he wrote: 

I suppose you will hear from R. H. Lee that the Executors have refused to 
divide the estate ’till October; I wonder you shd. not know they wd. refuse; by 
the will if the young ladies dye under particular circumstances, they get the 
Estate; had I been concerned for that reason I wd. have made them done it 
instantly. How cd. you appoint yr. two Brothers, who know nothing of survey- 
ing or good land from bad and one of the Executors who I have heard you 
talk of you know how, to divide it? Something shd. be speedily done for the 
Estate, tho’ fine, does not make enough to bare the Expenses of it; I wonder 
you don’t come in to see it divided and to live on it, if you do not it will always 
bring you in debt, remember I tell you so. 

Through the Court Orders of the Virginia Westmoreland Records 
for 1751-1764 an accurate picture of the legal and domestic situation 
of the family is obtained: 

[July 30, 1752.] The Last Will and Testament of the Honble Thos. Lee, 
Esq. dec’d was presented into Court by Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. his son and 
heir at Law and one of his Exors. therein named, who made Oath thereto and 
being Written with his own hand W riting and recorded sometime ago, is now 
ordered to be Lodged and Certificate granted to the sd. Philip Ludwell Lee 
for obtaining a probate thereof &c. 

[March 27, 1754.] Francis Lightfoot Lee, infant Orphan of the Honble 
Thos. Lee, Esq. dec’d Came into Court and chose Henry Lee for his Guardian 
and sd. Henry Lee together with Geo. Lee his Security acknowledged their 
Bond for the same. 

[March 27, 1754.] It is ordered that Andrew Monroe, Richard Jackson, Peter 
Rust and Richard Lee, Gents, or any three of them (being first sworn) before 
a Justice of the peace for this County) do Appraise the Estate of Thos. Lee, 
Esq. dec’d and return their proceedings thereof to next Court. 

[March 27, 1754.] [It is] ordered that John Lee, Peter Hogman, Richard 
Bernard, Benjamin Strother or any three of them do appraise the Estate of 
Thos. Lee, Esq. in Stafford County and make report to next Court held for this 



[March 27, 1754.] [It is] ordered that Lewis Elzey, Chas. Broadwater, 
Anthony Ruport and Hugh Woot appraise Estate of Thos. Lee, Esq. in Fairfax 
and make report. 

[March 27, 1754.] Thos. Ludwell Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Esq. Francis 
Lightfoot Lee, by Henry Lee his Guardian and William, Arthur and Alice Lee, 
Infants by the sd. Henry Lee, their next friend Complaints vs. Philip Ludwell 
Lee, Esq. Respondent — In Chancery. By Consent of parties it is referred to 
Richard Corbin, Philip Ludwell, Esq. and George Lee to settle and adjust all 
matters in difference between the Contending parties as a decree of this Court. 

[Sept. 24, 1754.] The Suit in Chancery brought by Thomas Lee, Esq. and 
others against Phil. Ludwell Lee Exor. of Thos. Lee, Esq. dec’d is Con'd for 
Referrees Report. 

[March 26, 1755.] Ordered that the Sheriff do sumon Philip Ludwell Lee 
Esq. to be and appear at the next Court to enter into Bond with Security for his 
due Execution of the Last Will and Testament of the Honble Thos. Lee, Esq. 
and to shew Cause why the Estate has not been appraised. 

[May 27, 1755.] The order to sumon Philip Ludwell Lee to enter into Bond 
for the Exor. of the Honble Thos. Lee, Esq. Will &c. is Cont’d. 

[May 29, 1755.] The Suit in Chancery — Thos. Ludwell Lee and others vs. 
Phil. Ludwell Lee acting Exor. of the Last Will of the Honble Thos. Lee, Esq. 
dec’d for the Referres report. 

[June 24, 1755.] The order to sumon Phil Ludwell Lee, Esq. concerning the 
Execution of the last Will of the Honble Thos. Lee Esq. is Con’t. 

[July 30, 1755.] Thos. Ludwell Lee and others by Henry Lee their Guardian 
and next friend Pltf. vs. Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. acting Exor. of the Honble 
Thos. Lee, Esq. Deft. — Con’t for Report of Referees. 

[July 30 1755.] The order to sumon Philip Ludwell Lee, Gent, concerning 
the Execution of the Will of the Honble Thos. Lee, Esq., dec’d (and also of his 
entering into Bond with Security for the same) not having complyed with it is 
therefore again Ordered that the Sheriff of this County do sumon the sd. Phil. 
Ludwell Lee to appear at next Court for the same purpose. 

[Jan. 29, 1756.] Thos. Lud. Lee and others vs. Phil . Lud. Lee Exor of Thos. 
Lee, Esq. Chancery — Cont’d. 

[Feb 26, 1757.] The Summons against Philip Ludwell Lee to give Security 
for the Execution of the Will of the Honble. Thos. Lee, Esq. is dismissed. 

[Aug. 29, 1758.] An Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of the Honble 
Thomas Lee, Esq. in Westmoreland County was returned into Court and 
ordered to be Recorded. 

[June 26, 1759.] Thos. Ludwell Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Esq. Francis Light- 
foot Lee an Infant by Henry Lee, Gent, his Guardian, William Lee, Arthur Lee 
and Miss Alice Lee Infants by sd. Henry Lee their next Friend agt. Philip 
Ludwell Lee, Esq. acting Exor. of Thos. Lee, Esq. Dec’d — Chancery — Cont’d. 

[May 27, 1760.] A Power of Attorney passed from Alice Lee to William 
Lee, Gent. — proved by the oath of James Russell and Ann Hartly. An Instru- 
ment of Writing from Alice Lee to William Lee, Gent, was proved by Jas. 
Russell and Ann Hartly. 



[Aug. 25, 1761.] Inventory of the Estate of the Honble Thos. Lee, Esq. 
Dec’d in Loudon County returned and recorded. 

[Aug. 26, 1761. J The Suit in Chancery commenced by Thos. Lee, Esq. and 
others agt. The Honorable Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. Exor of Thos Lee, Esq. is 

[Mch. 29, 1764.] Thos. Lee, Esq. and others agt. The honble Philip Ludwell 
Lee, Esq. Exor. &c. of Thos. Lee, Esq. dec’d — In Chancery — Cont’d until the 
next Court by Consent of the parties. 

[May 29, 1764. | The Presentment of the Grand Jury agt. the Honble Philip 
Lee, Esq. for reasons appearing to the Court is dismist. 

Because of the discord and the incessant litigation within the family 
it is not strange that Alice Lee at length determined to give up, for a 
small stipulated sum, her right and title to the property and legacies 
willed her by her father and leave Stratford to live in England. The 
first item recording her decision is in the inventories and accounts book 
of the Westmoreland Record, Page 115, as follows: 

Know all men by these Present that I Alice Lee of the County of Westmore- 
land and Colony of Virginia do give grant assign and make over to Mr. William 
Lee of the aforesaid County and Colony all my right and title to and Property 
in all the Legacies left me by my father the Late Honble Thomas Lee in his 
Last will and all my Estate Possession Properties and Effects that I now have or 
hereafter may have in this Colony to him the said William Lee and his heirs 
forever in Consideration of forty pounds Sterling to be paid me or my order 
annually from the date hereof in London, during my natural Life and no 
Longer. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this third 
day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty. 

Signed: Alice Lee. 

Signed sealed and acknowledged in Presence of James Russell, Philip Barnett, 
Ann Hartlee, Elizabeth Russell. 

At a Court held for the said County the 27th day of May 1760. This Instru- 
ment of Writing Passed from Miss Alice Lee to William Lee Gent, was Proved 
by the oaths of James Russell and Ann Hartlee two of the Witnesses thereto 
and ordered to be recorded. Recorded the 30th day of June 1760. 

Arthur Lee and his brother William spent much of their lives abroad 
and some of their most important activities were devoted to the welfare 
of the young republic. They were to labor "in the vineyard of liberty” 
across the seas, yet hand in hand with their brothers of Stratford— 
Thomas Ludwell, Richard Henry, and Francis Lightfoot. 


The Great House, presided over bv Philip Lee, remained "bachelor’s 
hall” until the late seventeen-fifties. Then the marriages of the Strat- 
ford Lees began to take place. Thomas, who had left Stratford some- 


time before to settle in Stafford County, married Mary Aylett of King 
William County. According to Lee of Virginia the Ayletts were an 
ancient family of England claiming descent from a companion of the 
Conqueror, whose sons obtained grants of land in Cornwall: "In 1656, 
it is said, a Captain John Aylett emigrated from Essex County, England, 
to Virginia, and later took up large tracts of land in the present county 
of King William. This Captain Aylett left a son, Philip, who settled 
in King William in 1686; he was succeeded by his son William, who 
represented that county as Burgess in 1723-26." 

Thomas Ludwell Lee was termed by Chancellor Wythe, "the most 
popular man in Virginia, and the delight of the eyes of every Virginian, 
but . . . would not engage in public life." He was, however, at all 
times an ardent patriot and was united with his younger brothers in 
practically every measure they advocated in support of the colonies 
against the tyranny of Great Britain. 

Richard Henry also married into the Aylett family. His marriage to 
Anne, sister of Mary Aylett, took place in 1757 and he brought his bride 
to Stratford, where they lived for several years until their new home was 
completed. In 1762 Alice Lee was married in London to Dr. William 
Shippen, Junior, of Philadelphia. 

Meanwhile Philip Lee, master of Stratford, married. His bride was 
Elizabeth Steptoe of Westmoreland, a young girl, gracious, accom- 
plished, and very lovely. She was the daughter of Dr. James Steptoe, 
member of a prominent family of planters established in the Northern 
Neck from the middle seventeenth century. When Dr. Steptoe died 
in 1756, he appointed Colonel Philip Ludwell Lee guardian of his 
daughter Elizabeth. Shortly afterward Philip married his ward. With 
the coming of a daughter of the Steptoe family to be the second mistress 
of Stratford Hall, its household affairs were reorganized on a new and 
harmonious basis, and it became once more a social center for the neigh- 
borhood. According to Westmoreland tradition, Elizabeth Steptoe Lee 
was exceedingly fond of social life; and, being many years her husband’s 
junior, she brought to Stratford a new element of youth, gaiety and 

The house built by Richard Henry Lee was on a part of Stratford 
Plantation which bordered the river. In 1763 he leased from Philip five- 
hundred acres, including the mills and the wooded bluffs below Strat- 
ford Landing. This series of high perpendicular cliffs was then known 
as Hollis Cliffs and later as the Cliffs of Nominy. According to the Rev. 


George W. Beale, Richard Henry Lee erected "a handsome and com- 
modious wooden mansion” here on a circular eminence overlooking the 
Potomac — a retired and beautiful spot three miles or so distant from the 
Great House. A narrow, densely shaded road wound through the deep 
woods to this new home. 

"The approach . . . was through a level plain of light, sandy soil 
of varying width, here broad and there narrow, as two deep, winding 
ravines on either hand approached, or receded from each other, the edges 
of these deep-wooded hollows at one or two points being so near to- 
gether as to barely leave space between for the roadway. The rounding 
elevation on which the house was built was bounded on two sides bv 
these deep ravines, and towards the north by a steep declivity, which 
fell abruptly to the level of the tide. It commanded a noble and en- 
chanting view of field and forest, green meadows and winding stream, 
of the long arm of Hollis’s marsh, encircling in part Curri[o]man bay, 
and beyond, the Potomac spreading for six miles to the Maryland shore. 
. . . Mr. Lee completed his building here about the time that the young 
Prince of Conde, in the interval of rest from warlike engagements, was 
making his seat near Paris the most noted literary centre in Europe. 
Richard Henry Lee named his home Chantilly after that famous cha- 
teau. ...” 

The Virginia Chantilly was, however, the very heart of solitude. Wil- 
derness itself — cliffs and woods and encompassing waters — it bore not 
the slightest physical resemblance to Chantilly of France. Yet, like that 
noble French chateau, it became a place where men could meet and new 
ideas find root. Richard Henry and Anne Aylett Lee went to live there 
early in the seventeen-sixties. This section of the Stratford estate became 
henceforth the scene of Richard Henry’s studies, of his correspondence, 
and of much of his political activity. 

His arrangement with Philip was for a long-term lease of Chantilly, 
the details being as follows: "Lease between Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee 
and Richard Henry Lee, Esq. 500 Acres lying in Cople parish between 
the land of Maj. Thomas Chilton and the Hallow’s marsh plantation be- 
longing to the said Philip Ludwell Lee — Northeast side of a marsh 
which Marsh is on the Northwest side of the HOUSE built by sd. Rich- 
ard Henry Lee — including 500 Acres of land with all houses, Buildings, 
vards, gardens, Orchards, Woods, water, water courses &c. — to said 
Richard Henry Lee and Ann his wife and Ludwell Lee son of said Rich- 
ard Henry Lee during the life and lives of the longer liver of them — for 



the yearly rent of 2650 lbs. of Tobacco — said Richard Henrv Lee to pav 
all rents and quit rents and make needful reparations — said Philip Lud- 
well Lee claims right to enter said premises at any time to view and give 
monition to repair and amends to said premises &c. 

"Recorded Feb. 22, 1763. 

"Wit: John Washington, James Davenport, Anthony Stewart.”' 

Chantilly is described in a letter written September 29, 1790, bv 
Thomas Lee Shippen to his parents in Philadelphia: 

Chantilly . . . commands a much finer view than Stratford by reason of a large 
bay into which the Patowmac forms itself opposite,... and a charming little creek 
whose windings spread across and water the space which lies between Chantilly 
and the river. Besides these, a fine island called Blackstone’s adds a finish to 
the landscape. At Chantilly you have every thing that is most excellent in fish 
crabs wild fowl and exquisite meats — the best of liquors — and a most hearty 
welcome. The house is rather commodious than elegant. The setting room 
which is very well ornamented is 30 feet by 18 and the dining room 24 feet by 
20. My uncle has a charming little daughter whom you remember he mentioned 
to us — his little beauty. Her name is Sally and she is every thing her friends 
could wish. The pleasure which so many agreable circumstances necessarily 
afforded us at Chantilly were not a little interrupted by the extreme indisposition 
of the family — Excepting Sally there was not one of them perfectly well. You 
were very frequently mentioned & wished for. We never sat down to a fine 
rock fish, soft crab or wild duck without my uncle R’s wishing for vou to par- 
take of it. His wishes were those of the table. The soft crabs are to be sure 
most delicious. 3 

Speaking of Chantilly, Edmund Jennings Lee says: "From the inven- 
tory and appraisement of the furniture, etc., it is learned that there were 
a dining-room, library, parlor, and chamber on the first floor. The hall 
being, as was usual, furnished as a sitting-room, contained: a mahogany 
desk, twelve arm chairs, a round and a square table, a covered walnut 
table, two boxes of tools, and a trumpet. On the second floor there were 
four large chambers, and a smaller one at the head of stairs; two rooms in 
third floor; store rooms, and closets. The out buildings mentioned were: 
kitchen, dairy, blacksmith shop, stable, and barn. The enumeration of 
the books in the library showed about 500 separate works, on science, 
history, politics, medicine, farming, etc., etc., which were appraised 
at £229 10s. 7d.” 

This description of the books at Chantilly is supplemented by Dr. 
Beale: "The library here was an extensive one, and had been selected 

'Supplementary Records. Y : Chantilly. 

“Original letter. September 29. 1790. from Thomas Lee Shippen to his father. Shippen 
Papers. Library of Congress. 


with much care. Many of the volumes were bound in rich and costly 
style, a few of which, bearing Mr. Lee’s autograph, are still treasured in 
Westmoreland, the last remaining souvenirs of Chantilly.” 

He gives further an interesting account of the wild life in this lower 
Potomac region, of which Stratford Plantation, with its 6,500 acres, 
formed so large a part: "From the grounds surrounding the mansion 
there extended up and down the river shore and inland, for miles con- 
tinuous stretches of forest, abounding in deer, wild turkeys, and foxes, 
which invited and cheered the huntsman’s chase. The waters, towards 
which the north windows of the building opened, swarmed through 
the winter months with wild geese, and ducks of many and choice varie- 
ties. For hunting these Mr. Lee had a fondness, and bore through the 
most of his life a mark of it in a disabled and disfigured hand, caused 
by the bursting of his gun.” 

A picture of this nesting place of eagles, and the "water-pastures” of 
the swans is drawn by Charles Carter Lee (son of Light-Horse Harry Lee, 
who was born at Stratford a generation later), in his very original 
verse, Virginia Georgies: 

Oh! I have seen where broad Potomac lifts, 

In Westmoreland, its surges ’gainst its cliffs, 

From those high bluffs, where such great men were born, 

The birth-place of the greater Washington: 

There rush the sea-urged billows rest to seek 
Through the shallow, narrow entrance of Pope’s Creek, 

And spread in peace, all hushed their troubled roar, 

Before the ancient Washingtonian door: 

There the calm shores an ample peaceful bed 
For the tossed surges of the river spread, — 

And water-fowl of every exquisite kind 
In its clear shallows plenteous feeding find, 

And on the river flats, outside the Creek, 

The glorious swans their water-pastures seek; 

And on the aged trees, by cliff and bay, 

The eagles watch to strike their feathered prey. 

I’ve seen, when hunting crowned my youthful glee, 

As many as seven on a single tree . . . 

i i i i 

Late in the winter of 1768, Mary Aylett Lee, the young wife of Rich- 
ard Henry, died at Chantilly. She was buried in Burnt House Fields 
and a monument to her memory was placed in the church near Chan- 
tilly. A description of "my dear Mrs. Lee’s monument in Nominy 



Church” with a copy of the inscription on the tablet was found by 
Edmund Jennings Lee in a manuscript in Richard Henry’s handwriting: 
Sacred to the Memory of Mrs. Anne Lee, wife of Col. Richard H Lee. This 
monument was erected by her afflicted husband, in the year 1769. 

Reflect dear reader on the great uncertainty of human life, since neither 
esteemed temperament nor the most amiable goodness could save this excel- 
lent Lady from death in the bloom of Life. She left behind her four children, 
two sons and two daughters, Obiit 12th December, 1768, aet. 30. 

'Was then so precious a flower 
But given us to behold it waste, 

The short lived blossom of an hour, 

Too nice, too fair, too sweet to last.” 

i i i i 

Colonel John Tayloe of Mount Airy, member of the King’s Council, 
was one of the group of large planters who invariably spent "the season” 
at Williamsburg with his family. His wife was Rebecca Plater, daughter 
of Governor George Plater of Maryland. Each one of their eight daugh- 
ters was a belle of the little capital city. Rebecca, or "Becky” as she was 
called, the second daughter, named for her mother, was singularly lov- 
able and attractive. She was sixteen vears old when Francis Lightfoot 
Lee, then Burgess from Loudoun County, fell in love with her. 

The Tayloe family, like the Lees, Corbins, Fitzhughs, Steptoes, Av- 
letts, and others, had been established in the Colony since the middle of 
the seventeenth century. The founder of the family, William Tayloe, 
came from England. Through his marriage to Anne Corbin, daughter 
of Henry Corbin, the family was connected with the Lees. Like Strat- 
ford, Nominy, Peckatone, Marmion, Bushfield, and Sabine Hall, the 
Tayloe home, Mount Airy on the Rappahannock, was one of the im- 
portant houses of the Northern Neck. Built almost a generation later 
than Stratford, it has a certain grace of architecture, a sophisticated 
character peculiar to itself. It is the dream of an eighteenth century poet. 
No house more graceful or more beautiful was built in Virginia or in 
any one of the colonies, nor ever stood on a lovelier or more peaceful 
site — a gentle English scene of park and fields and undulating hills, and 
beyond, the river softly flowing like the Thames in Spenser’s song. 
Fithian, who knew the house well, speaks of it in his journal: 

. . . He [Councillor Carter] has given Ben and me an Invitation to ride out 
and spend this Evening with him at Colonel Tayloe’ s. We set out about three; 
Mr. Carter travels in a small, neat Chair , with two waiting Men. We rode 
across the Country which is now in full Bloom; in every field we saw Negroes 
planting Corn, or plowing, or hoeing; we arrived at the Colonels about five, 


Distance twelve miles. Here is an elegant Seat! The House is about the Size 
of Mr. Carters, built with stone, and finished curiously, and ornamented with 
various paintings, and rich Pictures. This Gentleman owns Yorick, who won 
the prize of 500£ last November, from Dr. Floods Horse Gift. In the Dining- 
Room, besides many other fine Pieces, are twenty four of the most celebrated 
among the English Race-Horses, Drawn masterly, and set in elegant gilt Frames. 
He has near the great House, two f ? ] stone Houses, the one is used as a 
Kitchen, and the other, for a nursery, and Lodging Rooms . . . 

In the spring of 1769, Francis Lightfoot Lee married Becky Tayloe. 
He was thirty-five, she seventeen. Becky was so beloved by her father that 
he could not see her settling down in far-off Loudoun County. He gave 
her and his son-in-law a wedding gift of a large portion of Mount Airy 
Plantation and built a manor house for them. It was a house small, 
compact, exquisite in its general design and in its interior detail. 

The land embraced the Menokin hills through which wound Menokin 
Creek. The house took the Indian name of its locality and has been 
known since the time it was finished — 1769 — as Menokin House. A 
description of the place was written in the eighteen-eighties by G. W. 

Menokin House is situated on the hills above the creek of that name, in 
Richmond county, and commands an extended view of the low lying plane and 
marshes stretching away to the Rappahannock river. . . . Beyond the formid- 
able Menokin Mill hills, . . . the gate admits to a private road, which skirts 
several fields and terminates at the house, which is half a mile or more distant 
from the gate . . . 

The building . . . is a massive quadrangular structure of native red sand- 
stone in an excellent state of preservation. It is marked by the ponderous 
chimneys, immense hall, and wainscoting so common in Colonial edifices. Its 
erection marks the transitional stage of Colonial architecture . . . yet showing 
more solidity and durability of construction than was commonly true of houses 
erected after the Revolution. 

There was apparently widespread interest in the romance of Beckv 
Tayloe and Frank Lee. Undoubtedly Frank had been "the catch of Wil- 
liamsburg,” yet had remained so long a bachelor that he had been des- 
ignated as "not the marrying kind.” Certainly Rebecca Tayloe was the 
little princess of the capital city of the Colony as well as of Mount Airy. 
Frank worshipped her. The two were so happy that their whole world 
rejoiced with them. President Nelson of the Council wrote to Arthur 
Lee in London, March 31, 1769: "No doubt you have heard of the hap- 
piness of your brother Frank and Miss Becky.” 

With his return to the Northern Neck of Virginia after his marriage, 
Francis Lightfoot Lee represented Richmond County as Burgess. From 



Menokin, he went as a delegate to the Continental Congress. Devoted 
to his home, he was never happy when long away from it. Like his 
father, he was a horticulturist, and established at Menokin a nursery 
where he experimented with all sorts of trees, plants, fruits, and flowers, 
as Thomas Lee had done at Stratford. 

From the references in the Lee family letters a state of happiness 
ideal in its sincerity, simplicity, and beauty existed at Menokin House 
and in the lives of Frank and Becky Lee. In a letter to his father dated 
September 29, 1790, Thomas Lee Shippen writes of Menokin: 

I find my uncle & aunt Frank as happily situated as it is possible in this world 
to be except their want of society which they have in themselves only — They 
are prodigiously kind to me & to poor Baptist w r ho has the fever and ague — I 
have escaped only by taking a dose of bark every day — My aunt is both Baptist’s 
nurse & mine. She often talks of you & Phib What a favorite you are in Vir- 
ginia — attribute it not to flattery when I say what I really think that you ought 
to be so ev[e]ry where. God bless you my dear father. 

Thomas Shippen’s sister, Nancy Livingston, was particularly devoted 
to her uncle Frank, and, shortly after her marriage, wrote an affectionate 
sonnet to him: 

Thou sweetest of all the Lee race 
That ever adorned our shore, 

O with us do fix thine abode 

And leave Philadelphia no more. 

Thy temper’s as soft as the dove’s 
When she warbles aloft in the air, 

And thy converse enchantingly sweet 

When engaged in discourse with the fair. 

But when learning engrosses thy thought 
Then thy genius shines brighter and best 
And shews that thou surely wilt be 
An adornment to all in the West. 

O that thou mayest chuse but to live 

Where I thy sweet friendship may prove 
It will smooth the remains of my life 
Until I shall meet thee above. 

And there if our happy lot’s cast 
In those blessed regions to stay, 

No gloomy dark night shall we know 
But one clear and bright, perfect day. 

A H S Livingston 

Sonnet addressed to M r Francis Lightfoot Lee of Virginia 

by A. H. S. L. 

During the latter years of the Revolution when it was not practicable 


for her to be with her husband, Becky Lee frequently took refuge at Strat- 
ford from alarms and excursions. A letter addressed there by her 
husband is among Lee records in the Pennsylvania Historical Society: 

Richmond Dec. 2 

My dearest Becky: 

This day I rec’d your letter from S.[tratford] Hall by Capt. Ball. Glad to 
find you have recovered from your panic. Indeed it surprises me that you 
should be so easily frightened who have been so much accustomed to alarms 
much more serious than any we have here. Those who live at the mouths of the 
Rivers or on the banks of the broad waters are certainly in great danger of 
losing their property by the enemy’s privateers but I hope something will soon 
be done for their relief. It is true Col. Fitzhugh and [illegible] houses are 
burnt [Col] Burwell plundered by the enemy. The Assembly breaks up at Xmas. 
I intend to try for leave of absence if obtained you my depend upon my being 
very speedily with you, — however don’t be too sanguine and fatigue yourself 
with looking up the Road, be assured that every inducement will hurry me on 
and the less expected my arrival perhaps the more agreeable it will be. God 
bless you my love. 4 

Edmund Jennings Lee preserves a letter from Frank to his beloved 
Becky which gives a particularly vivid picture of the times and condi- 
tions under which they were living during 1780. It also expresses the 
sweetness and charm of their relationship: 

Richmond, 13 Nov., 1780. My Dearest Love: I, this moment, had the pleas- 
ure of your letter by Jupiter. You are wrong indeed my Love, to confine your- 
self so much at home. I beg you will endeavour to amuse yourself, so much 
anxiety and gloomishness is enough to give you a headache, which for my 
sake pray avoid; for nothing can compensate to me, for your want of health. 
Sutton’s behaviour vexes me much; I cannot conceive what the fellow can mean. 
I now write to him. The small quantity of peas really surprises me, there were 
several bushels in the field when I left home; they have certainly let the fowls 
and other things eat them up. As Garland cannot supply oil for the leather, 
tallow, with a very little butter, will answer the purpose; please to weigh what 
you furnish that I may know whether it is properly used. Your supply of cash, 
gave me pleasure, as it was one more instance, added to thousands, of your 
affection; but upon the whole I could not help being a little angry at your having 
disfurnished yourself; small as it was it might have been of some little use to 
you, here it is as a drop in the ocean? Indeed, my dear, you must not suppose 
that I can have any enjoyment in which you have not a share. 

Mr. Joe Jones, R. H. L. and myself are in pretty good lodgings. Mr. Page left 
us a few days agoe, having received advice that his father, who had got home, 
was in a very dangerous way. I suppose he will not return. I am now well, the 

“This letter has not been collated with the original. 



cold in my head being nearly gone. There is no prospect of the Assembly 
rising till Christmas, but you may be assured I will get off as soon as possible. 
1 cannot say at present when that may be, for we have not yet a senate; but 1 
hope we shall soon have some members to spare. As soon as I see a prospect I 
will inform you of it. In the meantime, let me again entreat you to fall upon 
some method of deverting yourself, either by going abroad or inviting others 
to join you at Menokin, or both. 

We have nothing new since my last; by the motion of the Enemy below, it 
looks as if they meant to winter there; in which case, they will give us a good 
deal of trouble; but at the same time they give us an opening for a good stroke 
in our favour, if the French force should come upon our coast, which is not im- 
probable. Love to Miss Sally and other friends, I am dearest Becky your ever 
affectionate, etc. 

P. S. — The milch cows will have the fresh gathered corn-fields to run in, 
where I expect they will have plenty of good food; therefore it will be better not 
to stall them yet, as we have a long winter to go thro. 

Coincident with the marriage of Frank Lee and Becky Tayloe was 
that of William Lee and his first cousin, Hannah Philippa Ludwell. 
Their wedding took place in 1769 in London, where William had been 
living for three years. 

Hannah Philippa Ludwell was the elder of the two daughters of 
Frances Grymes and the third Philip Ludwell, brother of Hannah Lud- 
well Lee. She was born and reared at Green Spring. After her mother’s 
death, about 1758, her father left their home in Virginia and established 
his family in London. There Alice Lee visited them, and doubtless 
made her home with them until her marriage to William Shippen, Jr. 
Their house must also have been a temporary home for Arthur Lee and 
a stopping place for William in his many voyages between England 
and Virginia before he settled in England with a view to making his 
stay permanent. 

William gave the first news of his wedding on March 20, 1769, to 
"Squire” Lee of Lee Hall: 

Having wrote you so lately I have little new[s] now, only to acknowledge 
the rec.t of your obliging favor of Jan. 17 last for which I thank you I hope to 
hear from you by every op-ty [ ? ] not impossible, as news flys so quick, 
but you may hear of my being marryed to Miss Ludwell, before this gets to 
hand, but sh.d you not, you are to know that we were fairly united by the matri- 
monial noose on the 7. th inst. & by the next advice I expect to hear you have 
played the same Game with Miss I. 

As we design to live here, I am fixed in my dfetermijnation to pursue the 
Tob.° business, if I find encouragement from my Friends on y. r side [of the] 
Atlantic, & upon the terms I formerly wrote The business of my relations alone 
if they wi[li] join in the scheme, wou’d be sufficient for me . . . 


In his letter to Frank congratulating him upon his marriage to Becky 
Tayloe, Arthur Lee also speaks of William’s wedding: 

My dear Brother . . . May I give you joy as I do our Brother William who 
has changed his voyage to India in the Princess of Wales into one to the land of 
matrimony in the Miss Ludwell. As a warm climate suits not with him I hope 
he will find a temperate one in the place of his destination. The Esquire writes 
him of your being no longer a member of the Assembly. How immoderately 
lazy you are! 

I have sent all his political pamphlets worth reading to Richard Henrv which 
I suppose you will read. 5 

Philip Lee sent rather wry-faced congratulations, and broke the long 
silence between himself and William with a broadside of family and 
neighborhood news and gossip, declaring what "a marrying year” 1769 
had been! 

Dear Brother: Though you wd. not write me of your good tidings amongst 
others you wrote, yet I shall be amongst the first to wish you joy very heartily; 
one of the most amiable women in the world you have possession of and I hope 
and Don't doubt you will do everything in yr. power to make her as happy as 
mortals can be, in gratefull return . . . 

Mrs. Lee and Matilda wish you joy. I enclose a letter from Miss Galloway. 
Our Bro: Franc: Lee was married to Miss Rebec: Tayloe last Thursday: to- 
morrow Patty Corbin and Geo: Turberville are to be married; Davenport is 
married to Miss Ransdell, Miss Betty Washington to Alex’r Spotswood, Nancy 
Washington to Burdet Ashton, Miss Cate Vaulx to young Banhead, Thos. 
Turner to Miss Jane Fauntleroy, Dr. Fauntleroy of Leeds to Miss Fauntleroy 
of Essex, Landon Carter, son of old Charles, is to be married in a little while 
to Miss Molly Fauntleroy of Naylor’s Hole; Merriwether Smith is to marry in 
a few days Miss Daingerfield of Essex with £1,500 fortune; Widow Rust at 
Rust's Ferry to Corrie, Hobs Hole, mar’d some months, and sundry others; so 
you see this has been a marrying year . . . Miss Bushrod is mar’d to Phil: 
Smith; the Widow Lee of Jno: Lee to old Jno: Smith the inoculator . . . 

Virg’a Stratford, 31, May, 1769. 

A resume of much of the family news is also given by William Lee in 
an account of the Lee family written in London in September, 1771: 

Philip Ludwell is now of the Council in Virginia, is married, has two 
daughters and lives at Stratford on Potomack River, Virginia; Thomas Ludwell 
is married, has several children and lives at Bellevue on Potomack River, Vir- 
ginia; Richard Henry is married, and lives at Chantilly, Potomack River, Vir- 
ginia, and has several children; Francis Lightfoot two years ago, married a 
daughter, and one that will be a coheiress of the Hon. John Tayloe of Virginia; 
he has no child, and lives at Menokin on Rappahanoc River in Virginia. Wil- 
liam. the writer of this account, in 1769, married in London Miss Hannah 
Philippa Ludwell. He has no children and is settled as a Virginia merchant on 

: 'This letter has not been collated with the original. 



Tower Hill, London. Arthur studied Physic at Edinburgh, where he took his 
degrees, but disliking the [medical] profession, he entered about two years ago 
as a student of law at Lincoln’s Inn and is now at No. 3 Essex Court in the 
Temple, prosecuting his studies. The two daughters, Hannah and Alice, were 
both well married, and are settled in America. . . . 

Of all the Stratford Lees, even in this ’'marrying year,” Arthur Lee 
alone is left, "the only unhappy or single person,” as he says, "of the 
family.” On August 4, 1769, he writes from Bristol Wells to felicitate 
his brother Richard Henry on his second marriage, to Anne Gaskins 
Pinckard of Westmoreland: 

Bristol-Wells, 4th August, 1769. My dear Brother, — I am sorry you have 
so much reason to complain of my neglect; for which I must rely on your good- 
ness to pardon me. My letters by Johnston brought me an account of your 
marriage; on which I give you and Mrs. Lee joy with all my heart. The union 
which crowns a mutual affection long tried, promises the most permanent fe- 
licity; and I hope every succeeding moon will find you equally happy with the 
first. I am now the only unhappy or single person of the family; nor have I 
any prospect of being otherwise. 1 have spent this season at the Bristol Wells 
in pursuit of practice and to make acquaintances, and shall remain the winter 
at Bath with the same views. In the latter it is easy to succeed, in the first not 
quite so easy here as at Williamsburg. Perseverance, of which unhappily I 
have very little, is absolutely requisite to accomplish this business. I often feel 
so home sick that I cannot bear the thoughts of living forever from you; so 
that if I am not very short lived I feel I must make another trip to see you. 

Contrasted with that of this country, how illustriously eminent does the patri- 
otic conduct of Virginia appear. I had my fears, my anxieties about Virginia, 
but my countrymen have fulfilled my most sanguine wishes and acquired an 
honour which can never be tarnished. Here the spirit of liberty is very languid, 
and all attempts to rouse it meet with very little success. Corruption has spread 
its baneful influence so universally, that this country seems now to be nearly in 
that state in which Jugurtha found Rome when he exclaimed, 

"O venalem urbem, et cito perituram, si emptorem invenies.” 

However, the utmost endeavours are used to awaken a proper resentment of 
the atrocious injuries which have been offered to the constitution. And though 
I believe they will obtain petitions enough to awe the ministry, yet I do not 
hope to see all the grievances fully redressed, and the authors of them brought 
to condign punishment. With respect to us the ministry speak in a conciliating 
tone, but they are so void of all virtue that no credit is due to them, especially 
as their principles are most notoriously arbitrary. Persevere in the plan of fru- 
gality and industry, encourage and confirm a spirit never to submit or yield, and 
you will compel them to be iust — hae tibi artes, haec arms; and may heaven 
render them invincible. 



A BAY MARE "with a star in her forehead” was the first "wriding 
horse” of a Stratford Lee. One of the large number of horses 
h. of the Matholic stables, she was given by the second Richard 
Lee to his son Thomas, September 25, 1706. At the same time he gave 
two other mares to Thomas’ older brother Francis. The document in the 
Westmoreland Records recording the episode is entitled, Richard Lee’s 
' 'guift to his sons.” 

I am minded to make deeds of guift to three of my sons of the mares under- 
written with their increase at present and to come according to their flesh marks 
and brand marks hereunder written. I would have a deed of guift recorded for 
the use of my son Francis of two bay mares branded with the figure 2 upon the 
rear buttock and a Starr in either of their foreheads with all their increase past 
and to come. 

Likewise I would have recorded in the Records of the Court of Westmore- 
land that I give to my son Thomas one bay mare at present in Middlesex with 
a star in her forehead, one of her hinder feet white, branded with ... on the rear 
buttock with all the increase of the said mare past and to come and a black 
horse branded with ... on the rear buttock. Likewise I would have recorded in 
the said Court records that I give to my son Henry one dark bay horse with a 
Starr in his forehead, branded on the rear buttock with the figure 2 and one 
bright bay mare branded with ... on the rear buttock and one of her hinder feet 
with all the increase of the said mare past and to come — Richard Lee. Capt. 
McCarty — I am not able to ride soe farr have sent my son Francis with this to 
you whereby I impower you as my Attorney for me and in my name to move the 
Court that the above deed may be recorded as a free gift from me to my said 
sons in my life time if you please to move in my name and behalf for leave that 
they may be recorded I nothing doubt it will be readily granted. I am with my 
service to the worshipful Court of Westd. Sr. yr humble serv’t — Richd Lee. 

Perhaps the sixteen-year-old Thomas Lee rode this mare over Strat- 
ford ground when he was exploring its mysterious ravines and coveting 
its beauties even then. Some few years later, when he had become the 
owner of the Clifts and was building his Great House, he reared exten- 
sive barns, huge brick stables, and a coach house in contemplation 
of just such purposes as they were eventually put to by Philip. President 
Lee was himself too occupied, as has been shown, with the Colony’s 
pressing affairs to develop the Stratford farm on any large scale. If he 
planned to import thoroughbreds and make Stratford a nursery of turf 
horses there is no evidence of it. This interesting and constructive piece 
of work he left for his eldest son to accomplish. 

This was the most congenial employment Philip Lee could have un- 
dertaken. Like practically all of the sons of the large planters of Tide- 

[ 114 ] 



w ater Virginia, Philip Lee had an engrossing interest in blooded horses, 
fox hunting, and horse races. Colonel Daniel McCarty’s plantation, 
Pope’s Creek, directly adjoining Stratford, was a large stock farm, one 
of the most celebrated breeding establishments in Virginia. Thus at 
Stratford’s very gate was an opportunity for Philip Lee and his brothers 
to become minutely acquainted with the details of the scientific and 
successful organization and operation of a stud farm. 

Following his return from abroad and from the confines of the Inner 
Temple, Philip undoubtedly joined his friends and neighbors as a 
devotee of what Stanard terms as "the reigning and raging sport of 
the Colony.” 

In the Rappahannock Valley and across the Potomac in Maryland 
w ere the stud farms of Stratford’s neighbors — some of them established 
on an extensive scale — at the time Philip Lee lived at Stratford. Among 
them, besides Colonel McCarty’s, were the stud farms of Colonel Mor- 
ton at Leedstown, of Colonel Tayloe at Mount Airy, and Colonel Fitz- 
hugh of Chatham at Fredericksburg. There were other celebrated 
breeders of thoroughbreds at the plantations of the Lees’ relatives and 
connections on the York and James Rivers: Colonel Nelson at York- 
towm, Colonel Wormeley of Rosegill, Colonel Harrison of Brandon, 
the Carters of Corotoman, Nominy, and Shirley. The frequent races in 
Fredericksburg and Williamsburg stimulated further interest and ex- 
citement in this sport. 

Young Fithian, the Princeton tutor of the Carter family at Nominy, 
w r as disgusted with it. Says he in his journal: 

. . . Fish-Feasts, and Fillies, Loud disputes concerning the Excellence of each 
others Colts— Concerning their Fathers, Mothers (for so they call the Dams) 
Brothers, Sisters, Uncles, Aunts, Nephew's, Nieces, and Cousins to the fourth 
Degree! All the Evening Toddy constantly circulating. Supper came in, and 
at Supper I had a full, broad, satisfying view of Miss Sally Panton. I w r anted 
to hear her converse, but poor Girl anything She attempted to say was drowmed 
in the more polite and useful Jargon about Dogs and Horses! . . . 

Fithian could even see without a quickening of pulse the great race 
between Colonel Tayloe’s famous Yorick and Gift, in which Yorick 
wmn — as he generally did: 

Thursday. November 25. Rode this morning to Richmond [County] Court- 
house. where two Horses run for a purse of 500 Pounds: besides small Betts 
almost enumerable. One of the Horses belonged to Colonel John Tayloe, 
and is called Yorick. The other to Dr. Flood, and is called Gift. The Assembly 
was remarkably numerous; beyond my expectation and exceeding polite in 
general. The Horses started precisely at five minutes after three; the Course 
w'as one Mile in Circumference, they performed the first Round in two minutes. 

The old stable at Stratford before reconstruction. 



third in two minutes and a Half. Yorick came out the fifth time round about 
40 Rod before Gift they were both, when the Riders dismounted very lame; 
they run five Miles, and Carried 180 lb. Rode home in the Evening. Expence 
to the Boy/7 Vi- 

Philip Lee had all the makings for a stud farm at Stratford, in its 
broad fields and pastures, its huge barns, stables, and paddocks. His 
original stock comprised only some old field mares and colts, some 
"wriding horses” perhaps — but no thoroughbreds. Philip had to use his 
own resources, ingenuity, cash, and industry to establish a stud farm. 

At that period the Rappahannock Valley was the center of Virginia’s 
horse breeding, and the importation of horses and mares to the Colony 
was limited to this section. Some years later the center was to shift to 
the James River Valley, thence to Roanoke, and still later to the upper 
country, Fairfax, Loudoun, Clarke, and Fauquier counties. 

Philip Lee’s first notable step was to import, in the year 1765, the 
famous thoroughbred stallion Dotterel, to stand at Stratford. Dotterel 
was reputed by the advertisements of the day to be "the swiftest horse in 
all England (Eclipse excepted).” He was foaled in 1756 and had been 
bred by the great English horseman, Sir John Pennington. He "was a 
high formed horse, 1 5 V 2 hands high; a powerful strong boned horse...” 

Philip Ludwell Lee placed the following advertisements vouching for 
Dotterel over Tidewater Virginia and Maryland; 

Dotterel will cover mares at Philip Ludwell Lee’s at Stratford, in Westmore- 
land county this season for six pounds the season, or thirty-six shillings the 

He was got by Changeling 1 : his dam by a son of Wynn’s Arabian: his 
grandam by a son of the Lonsdale Arabian: his great great grandam by a son 
of the Bay Barb, and out of the Barbon mare. 

The above pedigree may be seen at Stratford in the handwriting and signed 
by Sir John Pennington in England, who bred him; he beat the best horses in 
England four mile heats, with twelve stone on him, a small time before he 
came away for Virginia: He is near 15 hands and a half high, a healthy, strong 
boned horse, and is of the sort most esteemed in Britain for a stallion, not too 
far removed from the original stock. Where the horse stands there are excellent 
pastures and meadows for mares. [1766, June 6, VG] 

For ten years Dotterel stood at Stratford. The Stratford farm took its 
place side by side with the Pope’s Creek and Leedstown studs in the 
introduction of English thoroughbreds into Westmoreland and other 
counties of the Northern Neck. Although Stratford never was as large 
or conspicuous as some of the other stud farms of this region, it had an 

l J. Pennington’s Changeling was as famous a horse as any in the world in every respect. 
[Changeling was a full brother to Matchem. by Cade out of a Partner mare: Cade being a son 
of the Godolphin.] The Equine F. F. Vs. P. 118. 



important local part in helping to bring in and sustain English traditions 
of the turf. Stratford, with Dotterel, who carried twelve stone in Eng- 
land, may perhaps have seen some good races now and then. Echoes of 
Virginia’s exciting races of the eighteenth century have come down the 
years. The planters of Virginia and Maryland were expert riders. As 
Stanard says in Colonial Virginia, this "perhaps accounts for the charm 
they found in racing, which they regarded as peculiarly a gentleman’s 
diversion. ...” 

Lossing’s hearsay statement that at Stratford there were "stalls for a 
hundred horses,” might not be taken as an exaggeration, did he not at 
the same time declare that Stratford Hall itself was a house with "a 
hundred rooms.” 

The stud farm at Stratford was a success from the start. With Philip 
Lee’s death the stud was abolished. His cherished Dotterel was put up 
for sale a few weeks later: 

For sale, the high blooded horse Dotterel. He is full 15 hands 3 inches high, 
and remarkable for the strength and beauty of his form, being in every respect 
worthy of his high descent, which is from the best stock in England. . . . The 
gentlemen of the turf are well acquainted with Dotterel’s performances in 
Great Britain, and that he was esteemed the swiftest horse in England (Eclipse 
excepted) . . . [His] pedigree may be seen, and the terms of sale made 
known to any person inclined to purchase by applying to the steward at Strat- 
ford, the seat of the late Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq; in Westmoreland 
County. [1775, March 25, VG] 

An abstract from the 1775 inventory of Philip Lee gives the exact ap- 
praisal by the administrators of his estate of "such horses Mares and 
Colts as were shown to us:” 

Dotterel Stud Horse 


Peg & her filly 

£ 11 

Lilliput Chesnut horse 

£ 10 

Bolton bay horse 

£ 1 

Jack Sorrel horse 

£ 4 

Stockings Sorrel horse 

£ 15 

Blossom Sorrel Mare 

£ 25 

Silver Sorrel Mare & filly 

£ 20 

Fancy Sorrel Mare & filly 

£ 20 

Whitefoot Bay horse 

£ 25 

Sterling Bay horse 

£ 15 

Creeping Kate 

£ 20 

Jenny Bowles bay mare 

£ 20 

Bay filly 3 years old 

£ 12 

Grey mare 

£ 10 

Phillis & grey filly 

£ 8 

Grey filly 2 years old 

£ 8 


h - 



Bred in England by Sir John Pennington 

Brought to United States by P. N. Lee of Virginia i 

1 1765 < 

r earlii 

r . 

Stood in Westmorland County, Virginia, in 1766. 



Pedigree of Dotterel. 



Descriptions of the various types of the eighteenth century coaches 
of the Stratford Lees are available in several unpublished documents. 
The specifications for Hannah Lee Corbin’s coach ordered for her in 
London in 1768 by her brother William (through George Richard 
Turberville, Hannah’s son-indaw) , give a graphic picture of the fashion- 
able equipage of that period: 2 

James Russel Esq. r For M r Turbeville 
To x Poole & Ringsted 

Octo 8 
M r Russells 
original agreeing 
was for a 
CompL- chariot 
with Harness 
for four Horses 


by order 
of Mr Wm. 

To A new Genteel Post Chariot Made of the 
best Materials, Neatly Carved, with all Manner 
of the best Brass Leather & Iron Work, Four 
Steel Springs Iron Axletrees & Strong Sett of 
Wheels, Painted a fine Green Ground, with Coat 
of Arms & Crest proper with handsome Orna- 
ments in Green heightened in Gold the Mould- 
ings & Edges Gilt, the Carriage & Wheels — 
Coloured & Varnished, Lined with a fine light 
Cloth with all Manner of the best Worsted 
Trimming same Colour, Handsome Seat Cloth 
made up w<T. 2 Rows of Frings, the best Plate 
Glasses 2 in front, Mohogany Shutters, Inside 

Trunk and Carpet to the bottom 

To 4 new Genteel Harness made of the best 
Neats Leather Engraven Crest Housings & 
Winkers Bridles & reins Compleat & 2 Postilion 
Saddles; A Large Deal Case and Packs up the 
Body, Matts & Packing up the Carriage & 

Wheels, Marked as p r Margin 

To Anew Pair of Postilion Harness Made of the 
best Neats Leather, Engraven Crest and Hous- 
ings & Winkers Bridle & reins Compleat 

To Anew Sett of Barrs Spare Barr & Splintree. . 
To 6 Postilion Whips & new Pair Horse Whip. 

To 2 long Thongs 

To A Nett to the Roof 

To Cartage & Porterage & Watermen 

90- - 

- -7-10- 
1 - 16 - 


£ 101 - 6 - 

Contrasted with Hannah’s simplicity of taste, her daily life, and her 
avowed intent not to be "of the rich and the great,” it would appear that 

2 The original order for this coach was preserved by Hannah’s descendants (through Martha), 
Miss Alary Lee Murphy, and Air. R. Stafford Murphy, of Westmoreland. The interesting docu- 
ment w r as given by them to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 

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Tac simile of original specifications for a coach ordered in London by Alderman II illiam 
Lee for his sister, Hannah Lee Corbin. 



the grand post-chariot was more frequently used perhaps by Martha 
Corbin Turberville, her daughter, rather than by Hannah. 

Another description of an even more lordly eighteenth century coach 
"in prospect” for a member of the Lee family connected with Stratford, 
is in an original autographed letter written by Tom Shippen to his sister 
Nancy (Mrs. Henry Beekman Livingston). The observant young "ex- 
quisite” grandson and namesake of Thomas Lee, is at his country home, 
Farley in Pennsylvania, making ready for one of his customary visits to 

I gave Mr. B[ringhurst] [the Coach Maker] my directions yesterday, he 
writes, "as to the color of the painting as well as the lining and trimmings, 
tho’ perhaps you might as well give them to him in writing for fear of a 
mistake. The body of the Carriage is to be of a dark London brown, gilt, with 
my cypher T.L.S. and a Raven holding an oak leaf (our crest) over it. The 
carriage part is to be painted nearly white picked out (as they call it) with 
green, to correspond with my livery — The lining is to be of a cloth at 30/ a 
yard pepper & salt colour and the trimmings green and white lace — The stuff- 
ing to be made every where of the best curled hair, and the cushions both of 
the seats and quarters remarkably well stuffed so as to be soft and comfortable 
to an Invalid. Glasses behind, before and at the doors and false blinds to repre- 
sent Venetian ones in the painting of them, where ever the glasses are and be- 
sides that, in the quarters — to be made to close up m the winter with the 
cushions. The carriage moreover must be hung low to accommodate me in 
getting in, and the steps of the best kind, large and covered with carpeting like 
that in the bottom of the carriage. Holders behind for the footman of green & 
white lace. These particulars you can copy upon another piece of paper and 
keep this note, to compare notes by, when the work is finished. 

As to the harness, you will have an opportunity to exercise your address 
there. If you find that he will not remember your particular orders about brass 
harness for 2 horses which you seem to think you gave him, and which there- 
fore I should think it so short a time you could hardly be mistaken about — 
urge him then for the sake of his reputation which will be greatly affected in 
the distant Countries (N. & S. Carolina and Georgia in particular) I am going 
to travel through, by this specimen of his skill, to lay out the worth of the 
harness in making ye Carriage in any respect more elegant — more durable, or 
less burdensome — In short get the harness if you can, for the pole end horses 
instead of those you expected for the 400 Drs. exclusive of the additional 
Coachman’s seat which I have ordered, and if not as much as possible in lieu 
of it — And as to the rest, I repose the utmost confidence in your vigilance your 
attention, your taste and your devotion to my interests. Give my love to Peggy 
and to everybody over the way, and believe me ever yours most affectionately. 

William Lee’s sister-in-law, Lucy Ludwell Paradise, brought her 
London carriage with her when she returned to America in the last 



decade of the eighteenth century to spend her declining years in Wil- 
liamsburg. This is one of the quaintest chariots imaginable: black and 
yellow, with silver trimmings and high folding steps. The knobs of the 
door are ornamented with silver bas-reliefs of horses’ heads of skillful 
craftsmanship . 3 

Of the vehicles in the coach house at Stratford during the middle or 
late eighteenth century, no description is available. The inventories of 
the first two masters of Stratford contain meagre and probably incom- 
plete references. Among the carriages mentioned in Philip Lee’s in 
ventory are: 


small Chaise 









Carts & I Tumbrel 





When he attended the meetings of the Council, President Lee prob- 
ably rode horseback to Williamsburg just as he had done as a Burgess. 
On occasions when his family accompanied him, they must have traveled 
in a coach and six. 

For Philip Lee, however, especially after his marriage, there would 
inevitably have been high display and as "lordly” a coach perhaps as 
the one in which rode King Carter of Corotoman. During Philip’s time 
the county roads from the Northern Neck to the little capital citv were 
probably more passable than in his father’s day. 

In the fifteen or twenty years before the Revolution, according to 
Fithian, "Almost every Gentleman of Condition, keeps a Chariot and 
Four: many drive with six Plorses.” In the Northern Neck there were 
some grand equipages, such as Hannah Corbin’s and those belonging to 
the other wealthy neighboring families, among them Fitzhugh, Mc- 
Carty, Ashton, Tayloe, and Carter. Two of King Carter’s sons, Landon 
and Robert, lived in the vicinity of Stratford, the first at Sabine Hall, and 
the second at Nominy. They had elegant family vehicles. Fithian tells 
of the arrival at Nominy of "our new coach . . . from the ship lying at 
Leeds: a plain carriage, the upper part black and the lower sage or pea 
green. The Harness is neat strong, and Suitable for the Country. Price 
one hundred and twenty pounds sterling.” Councillor Carter had also a 
"strong, fashionable, travelling post coach, lined with blue morocco,” 

"This coach is owned by Mr. and Airs. Victor Stewart of Chippokes, Surry County, the 
ancient Berkeley Plantation on the Surry side of the James, which passed into Ludwell owner- 
ship, and so to Lucy Paradise. The rare and picturesque old equipage was purchased with the 
plantation by Air. and Airs. Stewart some twenty years ago. 



a "chariot with six wheels,” and a chair. His coachman and postilions 
wore livery of blue broadcloth with brass buttons. 

The only actual mention of carriages and coaches at Stratford refers 
to the second period of Light-Horse Harry Lee’s life there from 1795 to 
1810. In an unpublished manuscript, Charles Carter Lee, the son ot 
Light-Horse Harry and Ann Carter, describes the life at Stratford dur- 
ing the last decade of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the 
nineteenth. 4 In this narrative are frequent references to coaches and to 
horses, although there came a time in that family’s fortunes when they 
were to have neither. 

Charles Carter Lee’s statements and descriptions of Stratford in these 
unknown, long buried papers, reveal intimate and interesting scenes and 
happenings in the family and on the place. Carter writes: 

. . . Our domestic pleasures were diversified by the visits ... of our near 
neighbors, & of our distant ones, chiefly the Carters, in their coaches & four. 
I have a faint recollection that Mr Carter of Cleve & his family came to Strat- 
ford, in those sweet days, in two coaches & fours, the old gentleman presiding 
in one of those vehicles & his honoured & beloved wife in another. . . . The 
dear old gentleman, M r Carter of Nomini, came in the same style, I think. . . . 

When the family rode abroad during his childhood they drove in a 
coach-and-four. Carter mentions specifically the time when he was four 
years old and went with his parents in their "coach & four,” when they 
made a "Northern tour.” He also speaks of seeing the coach horses let 
down in the hold of the vessel: 

This incident was calculated to make an impression on a child, who had 
never even dreamed of such a performance. That much is distinct, & as such 
it is still photographed on the tablets of my memory: & I am pretty certain, 
that this was done at Providence, Rhode Island, from which place we sailed, 
instead of travelling, as before, on land, to some point, which I have not the 
least recollection of arriving at. For having doubtless been carried [inde- 
cipherable word crossed out] from the vessel before the horses were taken out 
of it, I have no recollection of that impressive event. 

More than two generations later, the year after the War Between the 
States, Stratford was the scene of the Westmoreland County Tourna- 
ment. Descendants of the friends and neighbors of the Stratford Lees 
gathered there for the first time in many years. Expert young horsemen 
of the Northern Neck came on their favorite mounts to take part in the 
contest in which the "Knight” who was the victor would crown "the 
Queen of Love and Beauty.” The spacious meadows of the south ap- 

4 Photostat collection. Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 



proach to the Great House was the field of the tournament and the cere- 
mony of the crowning of the Queen took place in the Great Hall. 


Virginia was settled from the water, and only gradually were the in- 
land sections put under cultivation. Until the middle of the eighteenth 
century virtually every plantation had to be reached through its water- 
front. So it was at Stratford. Here were the "warff” or Landing, the 
Plantation Store and Store Houses, the Tobacco Warehouses, Shipyard, 
Stocks, the Mills and the Cooper’s Shop. The county people for miles 
around sent their tobacco for shipment when a public warehouse was 
established there during the period of Philip Lee. They came not only 
to send out their tobacco, but also to buy their stores and receive their 
cargoes, to see the ships from England riding in, and to get the captains’ 

In the latter part of the seventeenth century, the Stratford waterfront 
was a center of public and private business and of local industrial activ- 
itv, first for the Pope family and their neighbors and then for the Lees 
and theirs. Like all the planters’ landings, it was perhaps more impor- 
tant as a center for the gathering and dispersing of news, foreign and do- 
mestic, than were the two churches of Westmoreland. 

The strategic position of Stratford as a central point for shipping and 
mill operation for the county must have appealed to Thomas Lee, even 
before his purchase of the plantation. 

Of the waters of this section Robert Beverley savs: 

THE Largeness of the Bay of Chesapeak I have mention’d already. From 
one End of it to the other, there’s good Anchorage, and so little Danger of a 
Wreck, that many Masters, who have never been there before, venture up to 
the Head of the Bay, upon the slender Knowledge of a common Sailor. But 
the Experience of one Voyage teaches any Master to go up afterwards, without 
a Pilot. 

Besides this Bay, the Country is water’d with four great Rivers, viz. James, 
York. Rappahannock, and Patoinneck Rivers; all which are full of convenient 
and safe Harbours. There are also abundances of lesser Rivers, many of which 
are capable of receiving the biggest Merchant-Ships . . 

These Rivers are of such Convenience, that, for almost every half dozen 
Miles of their Extent, there’s a commodious and safe Road for a whole Fleet; 
which gives Opportunity to the Masters of Ships, to lye up and down straggling, 
according as they have made their Acquaintance, riding before that Gentleman’s 
Door where they find the best Reception, or where ’tis most suitable to their 

These Rivers are made up, by the Conflux of an infinite Number of chrystal 



Springs of cool and pleasant Water, issuing every where out of the Banks, and 
Sides of the Valleys. These Springs flow so plentifully, that they make the River 
Water fresh, fifty, threescore, and sometimes an hundred Miles below the 
Flux and Reflux of the Tides; and sometime within thirty or forty Miles of the 
Bay itself. The Conveniencies of these Springs are so many, they are not to be 
number’d: I shall therefore content my self to mention that one of supplying the 
Country else where, except in the low Lands, with as many Mills as they can 
find Work for: And some of these send forth such a Glut of Water, that in less 
than a Mile below the Fountain-head, they afford a Stream sufficient to supply 
a Grist-Mill; of which there are several Instances. 

In John Oldmixon’s T he British Empire in America, of approximately 
the same period, when developments were beginning at Stratford, is a 
somewhat similar reference. 

Other goods besides tobacco transported by the colonists from the old 
river landings included wood, lumber, indigo, and naval stores. From 
England, as Beverley ruefully declares: 

THEY have their Clothing of all sorts ... as Linen, Woollen, Silk, Hats, and 
Leather: Yet Flax, and Hemp grow no where in the World better than there. 
There Sheep yield good Increase, and bear good Fleeces; but they shear them 
only to cool them. The Mulberry-Tree, whose Leaf is the proper Food of the 
Silk-Worm, grows there like a Weed, and Silk-worms have been observ’d to 
thrive extremely, and without any Hazard. The very Furs that their Hats are 
made of , perhaps go first from thence; and most of their Hides lie and rot, or are 
made use of only for covering dry Goods, in a leaky House. Indeed some few 
Hides with much ado are tan’d, and made into Servants Shoes; but at so careless 
a Rate, that the Planters don’t care to buy them, if they can get others; and 
sometimes perhaps a better Manager than ordinary, will vouchsafe to make a 
pair of Breeches of a Deer-Skin. Nay, they are such abominable Ill-husbands, 
that tho’ their Country be over-run with Wood, yet they have all their Wooden 
Ware from England; their Cabinets, Chairs, Tables, Stools, Chests, Boxes, 
Cart-Wheels, and all other things, even so much as their Bowls, and Birchen 
Brooms, to the Eternal Reproach of their Laziness. 

From the earliest davs there was coastwise and West India trade at 
Potomac landings, as well as trade with England — a circumstance that 
brought about an interesting connection and frequent intermarriage be- 
tween the families of New England, Bermuda, and West Indian sea 
captains, and early Virginia planters. 

The old landings themselves indeed reach out from the shores of yesterdays 
. . . Looked at through the eyes of history focused on the old chronicles, the 
colonial records, the parish vestry books, the old statutes and wills and diaries 
and letters, the vivid features of the early days assert themselves; the canoes 
of the Indians dart again along the river; the shallops of John Smith and the 
other adventurers sail its course; the pinnaces of Lord Baltimore search its 
shores and find a haven; the square-rigged clippers from England bring luxuries 



and dainties to the planters and their dames; the landings bend and creak or 
straighten and steady under the tobacco cargoes; the plantations renew the 
life of plenty and ease and splendour."' 

In common with all other plantation landings in Virginia, Stratford 
waterfront shared a view into far horizons, had more or less touch 
with world events. With the passing of the seventeenth century, the 
shadow of the fierce conflict between England and France reached over 
the waters. Though the colonists had no part in the making of that war, 
nor in the succeeding European wars of the early eighteenth century, 
they were drawn into the vortex. The menace from Indian attack also 
made for constant tension. Forts and block houses were being built in 
various parts of the Colony; rangers were placed on guard far up the 
Potomac, on the Rappahannock, the York, and the James. War news 
came first through the waterfront. 

Over a decade later, when Thomas Lee finished building Stratford 
house and brought his family there to live, the waterfront must have 
been a mine of interest to the Lee boys and no doubt inspired their 
ardent and zealous concern in world affairs. Here worked their father’s 
and their brother Philip’s boatswain and ship carpenters: Osman, Phil, 
Frank, Edmund, Congo the brick layer, "Bab at the Mill” and Harry, 
his "carp[enter] Fidlr [Fiddler.]” Undoubtedly the negro West also 
worked here. These names of the Lees’ slaves are in the old inventories. 
West’s family never left the place, and his descendants live and work at 
Stratford today. 

During the 1730’s and 1740’s the Lee boys perhaps had exciting ex- 
periences with the mysterious foreign coins. With Virginia’s medium of 
exchange tobacco — tobacco only — matters of "finance” must have been 
prosaic. But when the ships came riding in, with their strange cargoes, 
in the pockets of the sailors were Spanish double doubloons, pistoles, 
Arabian chequins, French crowns and pieces of eight. Then, too, there 
were sea-faring men from many lands. Face to face the young Lees 
would meet men who sailed the Spanish Main, not legendary figures, 
but men of flesh and blood, who transformed their landing into a scene 
of adventure and romance. 

. the Soanish sailors with bearded lips, 

And the beauty and mystery of the ships, 

And the magic of the sea. . 

Among the merchant ships riding Potomac waters in the earlv 
eighteenth century were the Lee, the Chatham, the Frederick, the Pris- 
cilla, the Charles, the America, the Sea Horse, and Friend's Adventure. 

A >1 A P of ^ 
tliemoft INHABITED part of 

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A typical Virginia landing of the eighteenth century, showing corner of tobacco warehouse 
and other waterfront structures. 

There were sea craft, too, from dark waters. Of the raids of the pirate 
"Long Arm,” especially, are innumerable tales and traditions. But he 
passed by Stratford in the night, bringing neither murderous attack nor 
treasure to bury. 

In the Public Record Office, London, are many inventories of con- 
signments of furniture and other household goods shipped in the early 
1700’s to "the south side of Potomac” at the time when Richard Lee and 
Thomas Lee were naval officers there. A ship’s manifest which left 
Plymouth for the Potomac River carried brocatelles, brocades, lacquers, 
etc., and the returned bill of lading bore the signature of Thomas Lee. 
His signature as naval officer is also preserved on some of the records of 
consignments exported from Virginia. 

A typical planter’s bill of lading is this bill for merchandise shipped 
from London on a clipper ship Potomac-bound: 

Shipped by the Grace of God, in good order and well conditioned by Wil- 
liam Lee in and upon the good ship called the Friendship, whereof is Master 
unto God for the present Voyage, William Roman, and now riding at Anchor 
in the river Thames and by God’s Grace bound for Virginia, to say one case, 
One Trunk, one Box of Merchandise, being marked and numbered as in the 
margin and are to be delivered in like good order and well conditioned at the 
aforesaid Port of Virginia (the danger of the sea only excepted) unto Mrs. 

[ 128 ] 



Anna Washington at Pope’s Creek, Potomak River or to her assigns. Freight 
for the said goods being paid with Primage and Average accustomed. 0 

The archives of Westmoreland Courthouse are packed with old sea- 
faring records, quite as if it were a maritime region. They deal with the 
making of tobacco at the Clifts and elsewhere and its inspection and 
shipment at Stratford and other Potomac landings; with the building of 
wharves, boats, and warehouses; with the names of ships and ship cap- 
tains; with the adjustments of weights and scales. An occasional notice 
is found of a thief making away with sailcloth from the store and his 
punishment therefor. The kinds and varieties of goods brought from 
England are also listed. Records of supplies shipped on vessels and 
money advanced for needed repairs are noted. Abstracts from account- 
ings of the estates of the planters of the Northern Neck contain further 
items. From this cumulative data, definite and concrete, the life and 
activities of the Stratford waterfront may be reconstructed. 

In the year "1736/7,” March 12, comes this expression of gratitude to 
Thomas Lee, Esquire, at Virginia, from Weymouth, England: "I am 
very thankfull to you for Supplying Capt. John Brett with £100 to repair 
his vessel &c. and have honour^ his bill for the same. Should said Capt. 
want one hundred pounds more in Virginia this voyage, or any part of 
that Sum his Bill on me for the Same Shall all so be Punctually hon- 
oured. If I can render you any agreeable Service here should be glad to 
have the Pleasure of doing it, and on all occasions shall be most readily 
— S r . y r . most Humble Servant, Thos. Bryer.” 

The Westmoreland Courthouse records for March and July, 1743, 
contain the first mention of Lee’s Landing, and refer to the mill and "an 
old Mill dam near the said Lee’s Landing.” From the period when 
Thomas Lee’s son Philip became owner of Stratford, extending from 
1750 to 1775, there are many records about Stratford Landing, ware- 
houses, ships, etc., not only in the Westmoreland books, but also in 
Hening’s Laws of Virginia and in the Journals of the House of Bur- 

Significant developments occurred at Stratford in the year 1759, when 
Lee’s Landing passed from the more or less private service of the owner, 
his tenants, and small planters of the neighborhood to public service for 
the entire peninsula. In this year a bill to construct a public warehouse at 
Stratford Landing was prepared by Archibald Cary, Richard Henry Lee, 
and Henry Lee, cousin and guardian of the Stratford Lees, and intro- 
duced by them in the House of Burgesses. The text of the act as given 



in Hening’s Laws of Virginia is typical of the grandiloquence of the 

At a General Assembly, began and held at the Capitol in Williamsburg, on 
Thursday the fourteenth day of September, in the thirty-second year of the 
reign of our sovereign lord George II, by the grace of God, of Great-Britain, 
France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith &etc., and in the year of our 
Lord, 1758; and from thence continued bv several prorogations to Thursday 
the twenty-second of February, in the year of our Lord, 1759; being the third 
session of this assembly; the following Act was passed: 

An Act for putting Matchotique and Mattox Warehouses, in the county of 
Westmoreland, under one inspection; for erecting a Warehouse at Stratford 
Landing, in the said county, and for other purposes therein mentioned. 

I. WHEREAS the warehouses established for the inspection of tobacco at 
Matchotique and Mattox, in the county of Westmoreland, are conveniently 
situated for being under one inspection, and the tobacco brought to both places 
may easily be inspected by one set of inspectors: Be it therefore enacted , by the 
Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly , 
and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That from and after the 
passing of this act the said warehouses at Matchotique and Mattox shall be 
under one inspection; and that there shall be paid to each of the inspectors at- 
tending the same the sum of thirty pounds per annum for their salaries. 

II. And whereas it will be of great advantage to many of the inhabitants of 
the said county if warehouses for the inspection of tobacco were erected on the 
land of the honourable Phillip Ludwell Lee, esquire, at a place called Stratford 
landing, in the said county: Be it further enacted, by the authrity aforesaid,. 
That from and after the passing of this act public warehouses for the inspection 
of tobacco shall be kept on the land of the said Philip Ludwell Lee, esquire, at 
the place called Stratford landing, in the said county of Westmoreland; and 
that there shall be paid to each of the inspectors attending the same the sum 
of twenty-five pounds per annum for their salaries. 

III. And whereas much of the tobacco that used to be carried to Nominy 
warehouses, in the said county of Westmoreland, will be probably carried to 
the warehouses to be erected at Stratford landing, and the business of the in- 
spectors at Nominy much lessened, thereby: Be it further enacted, by the au- 
thority aforesaid, That from and after the passing of this act the salaries of the 
inspectors at Nominy warehouses shall be only thirty pounds per annum 
each. . . 

The Court Orders of the Westmoreland County Records of Novem- 
ber 27, 1759, also contain references to Stratford Landing: 

Motion of Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. ordered that John Martin, Lawrence 
Butler and Benjamin Weeks Gents, view the Place proposed by sd. Lee to 
Erect and Build a warff at Stratford Landing Warehouse and make report. 

Motion of Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. ordered that he do keep the two roads 
from his upper and Lower Gates to Stratford Warehouse in Lawfull repair 



and the sd. Lee is Exempted from clearing any roads in Washington Parish 
Whatsoever. . . 

Motion of Phillip Ludwell Lee, Esq. at Nov. Court last, It was ordered that 
Jno. Martin, Lawrence Butler and Benj. Weeks, Gents, do view the Place pro- 
posed by the sd. Lee to Erect a Warff at Stratford Warehouse and report &c. — 
Who now return their report, to wit — Nov. 28, 1759— In Obedience to an 
order of Court we the subscribers have viewed a place proposed for the Build- 
ing of a Warff at Stratford Warehouse find it between two and three feet 
Water near ninety yards out and about four foot one Hundred yards hard 
Bottom — Lawrence Butler, John Martin. Whereupon it is considered bv the 
Court that there be a Warff Erected agreeable thereto. 

Ordered that Richard Lee and Aug. Washington Gents, view the Ware- 
houses at Nominy and Stratford Landing. 

On January 26, 1762 was given The Order for appointing persons to agree 
with Workmen to build a Wharf at Stratford Landing for Reasons appearing 
to the Court is discharged and it is ordered that Benjamen Weeks, John Martin 
and Thos. Chilton, Jr. Gents, do perform the Same and make Report to the 

In 1763, Edward Sanford and Richard Muse Inspectors at Stratford Land- 
ing Warehouse pursuant to Law made oath to an acct. of outstanding Transfer 
Receipts for Tob[acco], amounting to 1246 pounds. 

Thus for a period of several years Stratford Landing had a certain 
precedence over other Potomac landings and must have been as busy a 
'mart of trade” in a local or county way as any in the Colony. The ex- 
tent of its commerce was hardly comparable to that of the Virginia vil- 
lages which were fast growing into towns: Williamsburg, Norfolk, 
Fredericksburg, Richmond, or Alexandria; but it gave needed service to 
the planters and small farmers of Westmoreland. 

During these years there was also considerable activity at the Strat- 
ford mills, to judge from the references for payment for millwork in 
the Philip Lee inventories. The incident from the Court Orders refer- 
ring to a negro slave’s breaking into the Stratford store is dated August 
13, 1763: "Tom Limerick, a negro man Slave belonging to the Honble 
Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. with force and arms &c. feloniously broke and 
entered a house belonging to the sd. Lee and then and there did steal 
take and carry away pieces of Spanish Silver of the value of 5s, and also 
the same day and year did steal take and carry away from the store 
of the sd. Lee a piece of Sail cloth, 3s, and one Tressure note value of 
Is. Opinion of the Court that sd. Tom Limerick is guilty, therefore it 
is considered by the Court that the sd. Tom. Limerick be burnt in the 
left hand, which being done in the presence of the Court he is dis- 
charged from his Imprisonment.” 

The site of Stratford Landing. 


During this period a few boats were evidently built at Stratford 
Landing. The boats and fishing equipment mentioned in Philip Lee’s 

inventory for 1776 are: 

1 boat £ 15 

1 pr. Chain Wheels 25/ 

1 Vessel on the Stocks £ 250 

One Boat at the Shop Yard £ 25 

387 yds. Sail Cloth £ 50 

1 Bestle & Maul 5/ 

1 Old Sein & Ropes 80/ 

However, ship building on any considerable scale did not exist in 
eighteenth century Virginia. 

In 1769, about ten years after they were built, the warehouses at 
Stratford Landing were destroyed, presumably by fire. The following 
year efforts were made to reestablish them, but opposition developed 
among a group of freeholders and merchants of Westmoreland. Philip 
Lee was not a popular figure in his county or in Williamsburg, and the 
petition for the rebuilding of the warehouses proved unsuccessful. 

Perhaps the brightest and most picturesque aspect of Stratford water- 
front were the family boats, the visiting to and fro between the plan- 
tations on those favorite roads of the old planters, the river ways. No 
description of the Lee boats has survived, but Fithian tells about some 
belonging to their neighbors. 

Such wealthy planters as the Carters on the Rapahannock had family boats 
with four and six oars and awnings. The customs officials at all the large ports 
had rowboats and barges. Some of these craft were handsomely painted, and at 
New York, for example, carried sails, awnings, a coxswain, and bargemen in 

Again on Monday, December 13, he continues: 

Mr. Carter is preparing for a Voyage in his Schooner, the Hariot, to the 
Eastern Shore in Maryland, for Oysters: there are of the party, Mr. Carter, 
Captain Walker Colonel R'ichd. Lee and Mr. Lancelot Lee. With Sailors to 
work the vessel. . . . The long-Boat came, well furnished with a large Awning, 
and rowed with four Oars. . . . 

Before the Revolution and for several years following, dances were 
given at Stratford Landing. One or two old barges were moored fast 
to the wharf and lighted with ships’ lanterns. Philip Lee’s band of 
negro musicians played for the dancers. This is one of the reminiscences 
of Charles Carter Lee — one of the Stratford customs described to him 
by his father — 

This is the Potomac of the landings — of the old wharves supported by the 
leaning piles and protected at their corners by the high cable-lashed clusters of 



stout oak; of matchless romance and history; of the adventurers and planters; 
of the clipper ships from England and the Spanish Main, the frigates of war 
times, and the schooners and sloops and gilling skiffs; of the long stretches of 
leisurely peace over an almost unbroken span of three hundred years. . . . The 
landings are frequent, and the way to their pilings leads up many a meandering 
creek. 7 

From Stratford Landing the onlooker saw history being made. In the 
spring of 1744 the members of the Lancaster Commission gathered there 
— as gallant a company of Virginians as the "Knights of the Golden 
Horseshoe” who, not so many years before, had set forth from Wil- 
liamsburg under the leadership of Governor Alexander Spotswood and 
had penetrated the veils of mist beyond the distant hills and discovered 
the Blue Ridge Mountains. The expedition from Stratford, under the 
leadership of Thomas Lee — of even greater historic import and wider 
horizons — secured for England and English settlement the lands of the 
Iroquois west of the Alleghenies. 

The Treaty of Lancaster has already been referred to. Its relevance 
to Stratford Landing is that here was the point of embarkation. A daily 
record of the interesting events was kept by the secretary of the Virginia 
Commission, William Black of Montross, Scotland, a recent graduate 
of the University of Aberdeen. He gives a vivid picture of that morning 
of May 17, when the voyagers set sail: 

This Morning at 9 of the Clock, in Company with the Hon'ble Commis- 
sioners, and the Gentlemen of their Levies, Colonel John Taylor [Tayloe], 
Jun’r, Presley Thornton, Warren Lewis, Philip Ludwell Lee, James Littlepage, 
and Robert Brooke, Esquire, I Embarked on Board the Margaret Yacht lying 
off Stratford on Potomac, and about 10 minutes after, was under sail with a 
small Breeze of Wind at S. W. One Jack Ensign and Pennon flying. After 
the Vessel had got way, with the Trumpet we hailed the Company (who came 
to the Water-side to see us on Board) with Fare-you-well, who returned the 
Complement, wishing us a Good Voyage and safe Return, for which, on the 
part of the Company, I gave them Thanks with the discharge of our Blunder- 

As farr as I could observe the Gentlemen and Ladies on the Sandy Bank, 
we had full Sails, but on loosing the Sight of them, or on their retiring, we lost 
our Wind, which made me conclude, the Gentle Gale we then had was nothing 
else but the tender Wishes of the Women for their Husbands, and the Af- 
fectionate Concern of the Mothers for their Sons, Breath’d after us in Gentle 

With mid-century, there came a time when the family at Stratford 
and the neighbors for miles around must have gathered together at Strat- 

Quotations 5. 6, 7 in this chapter are from Potomac Landings, by Paul Wilstach. Copyright 
1932. Used by special permission of the publishers. The Bobbs-Merrill Company. 



ford Landing. That was a day in March, 1755, when the brave sight of 
Braddock’s Army sailing up the river from Hampton stirred the hearts 
of the Virginians. The British ships and transports- — pennons, flags, 
and Jack ensigns flying— rode the broad waters. On deck were the 
proud general and his two regiments from Ireland in their scarlet uni- 
forms, his artillerymen, and "handy marines.” They were to disembark 
at Alexandria for the long trek into the Pennsylvania wilderness. But 
only four months later the gaily welcomed troopers drifted back past 
Stratford Landing, flags at halfmast, only the wraith of a regiment. 
After the massacre at Fort Duquesne they had left their dead — fully 
two-thirds of their number — buried with their general in the primeval 
forest beside the Monongahela. 

More than a generation afterwards, in the last years of the American 
Revolution, Richard Henry Lee wrote repeatedly to the Governor of 
Virginia and to the Commissioner of the War Office at Richmond for 
arms and equipment, "the necessary defences which can alone secure 
both public and treasure.” In a letter to the Governor written at Chan- 
tilly he said: "Since my arrival from Congress in 1779 I have used every 
possible means to get the militia of Westmoreland well armed, as the 
people were exposed for 40 miles along the Shores of Potomac to be 
plundered & injured by the small piratical vessels of the enemv & of 
the Tories.” 8 

On the ninth of April, 1781, Stratford Landing was the scene of an 
engagement between the crews of three British men-of-war and a com- 
pany of Westmoreland militia assembled and captained by Richard 
Henry Lee. In the skirmish Lee was injured through the falling of his 
horse. The description of this historic incident of the Revolution in 
Virginia, written by Light-Horse Harry Lee’s eldest son, Major Henry 
Lee,' 1 has a quality reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott: 

During the war of the revolution, and, I believe, while Mr. Jefferson was 
Governor of Virginia, a British squadron which had been scouring the waters 
and wasting the shores of the Chesapeake, taking advantage of a favourable 
breeze, suddenly came to, off the coast of Virginia, where the majestic cliffs of 
Westmoreland overlook the stormy and sea-like Potomac. Mr. [Richard Henry] 
Lee was at that time on one of those visits to his family with which, from the 
permanent sittings of Congress, the members were of necessity occasionally 
accommodated. He hastily collected from the nearest circle of his neighbours a 
small and ill-armed band, repaired at their head to the point on which the enemy 
had commenced a descent, and without regard to his inferiority of means and 

'From Lee Papers, Pennsylvania Historical Society. Letter not collated with original. 
"Observations of the Writings of Thomas Jefferson. 



numbers, instantly attacked them. He drove the party on shore back into their 
barges, and held them aloof, until the ships were brought to cover the landing 
with round shot and shells, which he had no means of returning. Then as he 
was the first in advance so he was the last to retire, as men who were with 
him have since his death often said. Several of the hostile party were killed or 
wounded, among them an officer whom they carried off. One man they buried 
on the shore. In a grove of aged beech trees, not far from Mr. Lee’s residence, 
rest the remains of this unknown but unforgotten foe. The belated homeward- 
going hunter, as he drags his tired steps along that proud and melancholy 
coast, hastens to pass this grave without a name. His comrade is awed into 
silence, his hounds with startled instinct follow close at his heels, he hears a 
deeper moan in the night wind, a more sullen murmur in the angry wave, and 
overcome with a pleasing terror continues his quickened pace, until the course 
of a limpid stream is crossed. Then he talks again with his companion; tells of 
the men who when his sire was young, were the pride of Westmoreland; of 
Washington’s renown in arms, of Lee’s fame for eloquence; how the first went 
abroad to distant battles and high command; how the second returned from 
solemn councils to his poor but hospitable hills, delighted to disperse among 
his neighbours the fruits of wisdom and benevolence. 


( 1760 - 90 ) 




1 ATE in the month of February, 1766, according to a local chronicler,' 
"Thomas Ludwell Lee is known to have sent a boy to his brother 
Richard Henry Lee with a letter which read: 'We propose to be 
in Leedstown 2 in the afternoon of the 27th inst., where we expect to 
meet those who will come from your way. It is proposed that all who 
have swords or pistols will ride with them, and those who choose, a 
firelock. This will be a fine opportunity to effect the scheme of an asso- 
ciation, and I would be glad if you would think of a plan.’ ” 

There was evidently fear of violent opposition from Tories in West- 
moreland County to any meeting in protest against the Stamp Act. At 
this time, and for years to come, in Virginia and in every other colony 
as well, the patriots were in the minority. Everywhere, families were 
divided. Loyalists were in the saddle. 

The meeting at Leedstown, proposed by Thomas Ludwell Lee and 
called by Richard Henry, marked the beginning of the political life 
of the Stratford Lees as a family. It was the first time the four brothers 
appeared publicly together to denounce measures which they held in- 
imical to the Colonies. But Philip Lee, the master of Stratford, being 
of the King’s Council, was a loyalist and so remained neutral. It is not 
recorded that he supported his brothers in any way or affixed his signa- 
ture to a single one of the important official documents which they drew 
up. Nor is it on record that he opposed them — or other patriots — at any 

Ever since the passage of the Stamp Act, "a fatal blow to the liberty 
of America,” the Stratford Lees had united with Patrick Henry and 
other Virginia patriots in opposing the measure. Richard Henry wrote 
to Arthur in England, July 4, 1765: 

Every man in America hath much reason to lament with you, the loss of 
American liberty. As bad indeed as Egyptian bondage, is now become the fate 
of every inhabitant of America, by the mother country being converted into an 

‘Wright, T. R. P>., Westmoreland County, J'irgima, p. 41. 

"Leedstown was located on the Rappahannock several miles across the country from Strat- 
ford Plantation. It was the chief trading mart for Westmoreland County through the first 
three-quarters of the eighteenth century, and was one of the principal ports of the Rappahan 
nock River, and the central postal station for the county. It stood on the site of an ancient 
Indian settlement and. according to Bishop Meade was once a place of note in this part of 
Virginia: "It was doubtless named, either by the Fairfaxes or Washingtons, after the town of 
Leeds, in Yorkshire, near which both of their ancestral families lived. This in Virginia was 
a place of much trade in tobacco and other things. Its shipping was very considerable. ... At 
this place did they [the patriots of Westmorelandl resolve to oppose the Stamp Act, nor allow 
any citizen of Westmoreland to deal in stamps. This is a true part of the American history.” 

[ 139 ] 


arbitrary, cruel, and oppressive step-dame. But this most unjust proceeding 
[the stamp act] against us, should instruct every American, that as liberty can 
never be supported without arts and learning, a diligent attention to those 
should be the ruling object, with every thinking man . 3 

In the fall of 1765, the Stamp Act Congress, initiated by Benjamin 
Franklin, James Otis, Patrick Henry, and Christopher Gadsden, set in 
motion the concerted protest that spread throughout Virginia and other 
colonies. Thomas Ludwell Lee’s call for the Leedstown meeting was 
sent abroad through the county by Richard Henry. Their cousin and 
former guardian, Henry Lee of Leesylvania, and his brother Richard, 
"Squire” Lee of Lee Hall, joined them in the protest which Richard 
Henry framed. The call was answered, in person, by more than one 
hundred citizens of the county. They came armed. 

Bray’s Church, a brick structure on the outskirts of the town, high 
on the bank of the river, was the meeting-place. The Westmoreland 
patriots bound themselves in this meeting to defend each other with 
their lives and fortunes in the execution of the resolves drawn up by 
Richard Henry Lee. These resolutions stated, in effect: 

First: That allegiance to the sovereign and obedience to the law, 
would be rendered only in so far as was consistent with the preservation 
of constitutional rights and liberty: 

Second: That trial by jury and taxation by representatives of the tax- 
payers’ choice were fundamental rights, the denial of which they as sub- 
scribers would go to any extremity "'to stigmatize and punish”: 

Third: That every faculty would be exerted to prevent the execution 
of the Stamp Act in Virginia. The "abandoned wretch” who abetted 
the Act was pronounced in danger: 

Fourth: That, as subscribers, they would endeavour to gain signers 
for the resolves and put them into practice: 

Fifth: That attacks on the life or liberty of members would be jointly 

Thus at the Leedstown meeting open resistance to Great Britain was 
declared in the W estmor eland Resolves, and signed by one hundred 
and fifteen men. Among the signatures are those of three brothers of 
George Washington and five Lees. This historic document was the 
first of the large number of county, state, and national papers of import 
to American history to be initiated, prepared, and signed by the Strat- 
ford Lees. 

Chantilly’s heights on Stratford Plantation became a center of Revo- 

fMemoir of Richard Henry Lee, Vol. I, pp. 32-33. 


lutionary activities. So were other plantations of the Lees and their 
kinspeople in different parts of Virginia: Bellevue, Menokin, Lee Hall, 
Freestone Point, Leesylvania, Green Spring, Marmion, and Chatham. 
Together the Stratford Lees represented in the Council and the House of 
Burgesses: Westmoreland, Stafford, Prince William, Loudoun, and, 
later, Richmond counties. Consequently in Williamsburg, the little 
colonial capital, the Lee kindred and their friends found a central meet- 
ing point. Here they met regularly "in the season.” The place the family 
assumed in Westmoreland County in 1766 it continued to hold in the 
Colony and later in the nation for more than a quarter of a century. As 
far north as Philadelphia, the Lee family had in Shippen House, the 
home of their sister Alice, headquarters for their revolutionary work. 
Across the seas at Tower Hill in London was William, established there 
soon after the signing of the Leedstown Resolutions. In London, too, 
lived Arthur, in lodgings at the Temple. From these distant centers, 
the Lees could conduct their activities in behalf of the colonies. 

Through the strange working of destiny, members of this single 
American family were thus placed in widely separated, yet strategic 
points, in America and Europe at the very time the country’s need for 
their services was greatest. 

Because they were so situated it was possible to develop a plan for 
furthering colonial union which had originated with Richard Henry 
and his younger brothers at Stratford: the Secret Correspondence Com- 
mittee. A preliminary step for colonial union was taken in 1744 bv 
their father, when, with the Treaty of Lancaster, three of the colonies 
united against a common danger. Another step was taken in 1765, with 
the Stamp Act Congress. Still another was this plan of the Lees’ cor- 
respondence committee. Under cover of personal letters, William and 
Arthur Lee wrote from London to their brothers at Stratford minutely 
detailed records of every event in England and in European centers be- 
tween 1768 and 1779 which had bearing on the status of the colonies. 
The letter from William Lee written from London, February 6, 1770, 
to Richard Henry, quoted in H. Lee’s The Campaign of 1781 in the 
Carolinas, is one of many hundreds illustrating this: 

My Dear Brother, 

I have just stole a moment to give you a little touch of politics; and as I 
expect more trom you and Frank tor the good of America, than any others in 
Virginia, the subject will be chiefly on American affairs; with this preamble, 
where facts are mentioned, you may depend on their authenticity; tor which 
reason egotisms will perhaps be too frequent, and in matters ot opinion you 

A relic of the skirmish at Stratford Landing during the Revolution. 


may give what credit you please to them. Having already been in some respect 
hurt, by my name being indiscreetly mentioned to captains of ships and others, 
as a political intelligencer, I can trust only your discretion, not to do it unless 
there should be a necessity to authenticate any fact. Ministerial changes the 
papers are full of, that is, all but the king’s-men and the Bedford-men are out. 
Lord North is fixed in the Duke of Grafton’s saddle; and though every party in 
the kingdom is firmly united against the present set, there is no prospect of a 
change. I am apt to think myself, the minority cannot succeed, owing to their 
union with G. Grenville, against whom there is, in the Princess Dowager and 
the King, such an implacable resentment, that he never can come in. If he does, 
I give up my faith in the king's obstinacy. The present ministry are, from 
principle, enemies to all political liberty, and consequently are enemies to 
America. They have declared for repealing the American duties on paper, paint, 
and glass, as being a tax on British manufactures; but as they are very far from 
the design of giving up, or keeping dormant, the parliamentary right of taxing 
America; the duty on tea is to be retained as an absolute fixed precedent, with 
the other revenue acts, viz. the 4th and 6th of George III. chapters 1 “3th and 
1 6th, the commission of customs, admiralty courts, &c. Indeed they say, that 
the mighty boon of repealing the duties on paper, paint, and glass, is to be 
with restrictions; what those restrictions may be, we are left to conjecture. But 
from some hints, they are supposed to be, either a restraint on your manufac- 
tures, or making your associations against British manufactures felony or 

Lords Camden and Chatham are greater than ever; the last is really divine. 
It is impossible for me to give you any idea of his sublimity. Smollett’s character 
of his eloquence, will give you some faint notion of it. His sentiments and ex- 
pressions of America are the same as before. The 2d mst. the House of Lords 
sate from two o’clock in the evening, till past iwo in the morning, later than 
ever was known. Lord Chatham astonished even those that had known him for 
near forty years; though he was labouring under a fit of the gout. Lords Mans- 
field. Marchment, Egmont, and all the rest, fell before him like grass before a 
keen scythe. But ’twas all in vain — a question involving annihilation to the 
constitution, was carried against him by a great majority. 

February 10th . — Little alteration in American affairs, only instead of their 
being heard the 12th, in the House of Commons, they are put off, and no time 
fixed for them. Most think the tea will not be repealed, unless the India Com- 
pany should carry it in their plan, which the ministry now say they will not 
agree to. The minority strengthen every day; and things seem to be near a 
crisis; the Lords’ protest makes every one think very seriously. If the high hand 
in government continues, a spirit will very soon be raised that may burn some 
people’s fingers. 

Be steady in America, and explicit in your demands. Now is the only time to 
insist firmly on them all. South Carolina has done nobly; this week the bill of 
Rights-men have received £1500 sterling, sent them by the assembly, to assist 
them in supporting the glorious cause they have undertaken. 

My love to you all. Adieu. William Lee. 


By such close observation and careful transcription, William and 
Arthur Lee made themselves invaluable intelligence officers of the colo- 
nies. The usefulness of such exact information about the politics and 
personalities of England and other European capitals can scarcely be 
overestimated. It was a contribution of first importance to the revolu- 
tionary cause. 

Once this information reached them, the Lees in America set skillfully 
about its dissemination in every colony through their letters to men of 
importance. They hoped also to get the essentials before the colonial 
public by writing for the public prints and by inducing their influential 
friends to do so. According to R. H. Lee in his Memoir of Richard 
Henry Lee: 

. . . General Gadsden, of South Carolina, a few years before his death, 
remarked, while addressing an assemblage of citizens on the fourth of July, 
that Richard Henry Lee had invited him, to become a member of a private 
corresponding society as early as the year ’68, which, Mr. Lee informed him, he 
was endeavouring to establish, between the influential men in the colonies. Ele 
stated, that Mr. Lee described his object to be, to obtain a mutual pledge from 
the members, to write for the public journals or papers, of their respective 
colonies, and converse with, and inform the people, on the subject of their 
rights, and their wrongs, and upon all seasonable occasions, to impress upon 
their minds, the necessity of a struggle with Great Britain, for the ultimate 
establishment of independence. 

The Secret Correspondence Committee was in unofficial operation in 
Virginia for several years before its adoption by the Colony in 1773, 
at Richard Henry’s instance, as a permanent committee to spread the 
doctrine of resistance. In 1772, an identical plan, initiated by Samuel 
Adams, was set in motion in Massachusetts and was functioning in 
every town in that Colony. These committees proved to be not only 
the means of obtaining a vast amount of information but also of setting 
it to work like yeast in the public mind. Today this activity would un- 
doubtedly be termed a highly efficient intelligence division and propa- 
ganda bureau. It was chiefly the work of the Lees of Stratford. 

By the spring of 1774 "Politicks were the topic,” says Fithian, "and 
indeed the Gentlemen seemed warm.” The sympathy of all the colo- 
nies was turned toward Boston when the King and Parliament enacted 
the Boston Port Bill, closing the harbor to commerce and setting a 
stranglehold on the city’s chief financial resources. The port was to be 
closed on June 1st. On May 24, the Burgesses met in Williamsburg, at 
the Capitol. They passed a resolution expressing sympathy with the 
people of Boston, and declaring it "highly necessary that the said first 



day of June next be set apart by the members of this house, as a day of 
fasting, humiliation, and prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine inter- 
position for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to 
our civil rights, and the evils of civil war.” 

Edmund Randolph says of this move: 

The style, in which the fast was recommended was too bold to be neglected 
by the governor, as an effusion, which would evaporate on paper. It was a 
cement among the colonies unconnected as they were in situation, and dissimilar 
as they were in manners, habits, ideas of religion and government from the 
states abounding in slaves. It brought home to the bosom of each colony the 
apprehensions of every other; and if in the hour of reflection, the ministry could 
have foreseen the approach of a closer union among the colonies, these resolu- 
tions might have been well interpreted into the seed of a revolution. The gov- 
ernor therefore resorted to his power of dissolving the assembly; a power 
which hindered the circulation of offensive matter under the legislative seal, but 
inoculated the whole colony with the poison, against which it was directed. . . . 

The fast was obeyed throughout Virginia with such rigour and scruples, as 
to interdict the tasting of food between the rising and setting sun. With the 
remembrance of the king, horror was associated; and in churches as well as in 
the circles of social conversation, he seemed to stalk like the Arch enemy of 
mankind . 4 

Fithian writes: 

. . . The lower Class of People here are in a tumult on the account of Reports 
from Boston, many of them expect to be pressed and compelled to go and fight 
the Britains! Evening I asked the Colonel if he proposed to observe the fast, 
and attend Sermon to-morrow; he answered that "No one must go from hence 
to Church, or observe the Fast at all.” By this, (for it is hard to know his opinion 
from any thing he declares) I conclude he is a courtier. . . . Towards evening 
Squire Lee call’d in, and brought a late London NewsPaper in which we are 
informed that another Act of Parliament has pass’d taking from the People of 
Boston all power of trying any Soldier, or Person whether for commiting any 
Crime: and obliging all such offenders to be sent home for legal Tryal. Heaven 
only knows where these tumults will End! He informed us likewise that last 
Saturday in Richmond (our neighbor County) the people drest and burnt with 
great marks of Detestation the infamous Lord North. . . . 

Virginia’s action was identical with that of most of the colonies. 
The first of June was a day of fasting and prayer from Maine to 
Georgia. The church bells were tolled, flags were set at half mast in the 
harbors. All the colonies sent cattle, grain, produce to Boston. At last 
they were united by a persecution which might at any time descend on 
every city on the coast. 

‘Edmund Randolph’s Essay on the Revolutionary History of Virginia, 1774-178 2. Published 
under the auspices of “The Virginians” of the City of New York. In the Virginia Magazine of 
History and Biography.” July, 1935, XLVIII, p. 214. 

Richard Henry Lee’s Independence Resolutions introduced in Continental Congress, j/me 7 , 1776. 


The following day the Virginia Burgesses gathered together in the 
Apollo Room at the Raleigh Tavern — their assembly hall in the Capitol 
having been closed to them by their own governor. Here they deter- 
mined to call a convention in Williamsburg on August first, to which 
every county in the Colony should send delegates. 

At the convention the grievances of the colonies were discussed in 
detail, their rights declared and action taken to call a general congress 
of all the colonies to meet September fourth in Philadelphia. Dele- 
gates to this general congress were immediately elected. They included 
Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick 
Henry, Richard Bland,' Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton. 

So the First Continental Congress was called into being. 

Returning to Chantilly after the auspicious gathering in the Raleigh 
Tavern at Williamsburg, Richard Henry Lee again called the men of 
Westmoreland to a meeting like that at Leedstown eight years before. 
This time they met in the courthouse at Montross, the county seat. This 
was a small settlement located on a part of land which had once been 
William Black’s farm, named Montross from his home in Scotland. 

According to his grandson, R. H. Lee, Richard Henry "procured a 
very full meeting of the inhabitants of Westmoreland. And after ha- 
ranging them on the state of affairs, and inveighing in bold and indig- 
nant terms against the English ministry, dwelling in pathetic description 
on the sufferings of their countrymen in Boston, he proposed several 
resolutions. These expressed a warm sympathy for the people of that 
town, cheered them by assurances of support, and exhorted them to 
persevere in their manly resistance.” 

The measures adopted at this meeting June 22, 1774, are known as 
"The Westmoreland Resolutions.” 11 After asserting the fundamental 
rights of taxation by representatives of the taxpayer’s choice, and brand- 
ing the Boston Port Bill as an attack upon the liberties of the British 
subjects, the resolutions called for unity of action "to resist the common 
danger.” In expressing sympathy for the suffering sister Colony of 
Massachusetts it was resolved: That Westmoreland County would join 
in stopping all exports to and all imports from Great Britain and the 
West Indies until the Port Bill was repealed; that no payment of debts 
owed to British merchants would be made until grievances were re- 

5 Richard Bland resigned and his place as delegate was taken by Francis Light foot Lee. 

“The Westmoreland Resolutions of 1774 are not to be confused with the Westmoreland Re- 
solves of 1766. Both documents are the work of Richard Henry Memoir of Richard Henry 
Lee. I, 101-2. 


dressed: that no products except food were to be sold, bought, or trans- 
ported and that the county would join in a tea boycott. One hundred 
and fifty years later such policies are termed economic sanctions. 

Thus the summer of 1774 was an active one for the Stratford Lees. 
As September fourth and the First Continental Congress approached, 
Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Henry Lee fired the 
whole Colony with the spirit of freedom. Samuel Adams referred then 
to Richard Henry as one of the "Friends of American Independence 
and Freedom.” 

All the colonies excepting Georgia sent delegates to the Philadelphia 
Congress. The Virginians wanted, and asked for, what their forefathers, 
the Old Standers at Jamestown wanted, and took: the right to govern 
themselves where taxation, trade and local affairs were concerned, the 
simple rights of Englishmen. Accordingly, the Congress addressed a pe- 
tition to the King, another to the people of Great Britain, and a third to 
the people of Canada. The Congress worked out an agreement to attack 
England by refusing all trade with her. Conservatism ruled every ses- 
sion. Moderation was the watchword. The first Congress stood on 
precarious ground. The twelve colonies represented there were like 
twelve separate countries. Each had its own governor, its separate laws 
and separate form of government, its own interests to look to. Each 
was jealous of the other. Virginia and Massachusetts had to step warily. 
In the few weeks the Congress was in session, it accomplished what it 
set out to do, adjourned early in October, and called the second Con- 
tinental Congress to meet in Philadelphia the following May, 1775. 

Until the convening of the Continental Congress, each one of the 
thirteen colonies had been in effect a separate country. But now a 
plan was evolved by which the colonies were to be drawn together and 
to become the United Provinces of North America with the city of 
Philadelphia their capital. Thus was real progress made. The tide was 
coming in. 

To the Lees and Samuel Adams especially, it was apparent that the 
continued activity of the correspondence committees must go on. Much 
would depend upon the information and upon the response people gave 
to their local committees working under the guidance of the committees 
of correspondence. This meant endless planning and never ceasing labor 
for the Stratford Lees. By the new year, innumerable associations were 
forming in Virginia and in every other colony, associations pledged to 
oppose by force of arms the aggressions of the King. 


A letter written early in 1775 to William Lee by Henry Lee of Lee- 
syl vania expresses the situation clearly: "The Gentlemen are training 
themselves thro’ the Continent every week and have raised Companys 
who muster two days every week and emulate to Excell each other in y e 
manual manoeuvers and Evolutions as practised by the King of Prussia’s 
Troops, for we are determined on Preserving our Libertys if necessary 
at the Expense of our Blood, being resolved not to survive Slavery.” 

During these years when Philip Lee’s five younger brothers were 
thus "toiling in the vineyard of liberty,” affairs at the Great House and 
on the plantation were steadily improving. 

As a member of the King’s Council, Philip Lee continued to attend 
meetings at Williamsburg; but for the most part he was absorbed in his 
new interests of a growing family and in building up the stud farm and 
the industrial activities of the plantation. 

i 1 i i 

Philip and Elizabeth Steptoe Lee were the parents of two daughters, 
Matilda and Flora. Matilda was her father’s pet. No expense was 
spared in the education and training of the two little girls. According 
to G. W. Beale: 

The years preceding the Revolution, which were passed at Stratford . . . 
were probably the most prosperous in the history of this noted home. The rapid 
increase of the slave population, the as yet unwasted fertility of the soil, and 
the good prices for tobacco, had tended to increase largely the wealth of the 
planters. An educational spirit had been very generally fostered, and a larger 
proportion of young men of collegiate training were to be found in the Colony 
than at any time previously. In the culture of its visitors, the abundance of its 
comforts and the easy flow and elegant grace of its social life, these were bright 
and auspicious years in the Stratford calendar. The proprietor of Stratford at 
this period was enlisted heartily in various projects deemed of advantage to the 
agricultural and political interests of his fellow colonists. He was also deeply 
interested in the establishment of a town in Fairfax county, near the falls of the 
Potomac, to which he gave the name Philee, and which the Assembly chartered. 

Another Virginia town which Philip Lee founded was named Matil- 
daville in honor of his elder daughter. 

During 1773, the dancing master, Mr. Christian, celebrated in the 
Colony, had a class at Stratford. "... Virginians are of genuine Blood. 
They will dance or die!” Fithian gives an interesting series of descrip- 
tions and narrations of this period, in which the Philip Lees of Stratford 
often figure. They present Philip in a more favorable light than do the 
records of his earlier years: he describes "Social evenings:” 

When the candles were lighted, we all repaired, for the last time, into the 



dancing-room; first each couple danced a Minuet; then all joined as before in 
the country Dances, these continued till half after Seven when Mr. Christian 
retired; and at the proposal of several, (with Mr. Carters approbation) we 
played Button, to get Pauns for Redemption; here I could join with them, and 
indeed it was carried on with sprightliness, and Decency; in the course of re- 
deeming my Pauns I had several Kisses of the Ladies! Early in the Evening 
came colonel Philip Lee, in a travelling Chariot from Williamsburg. Half after 
eight we were rung in to Supper; The room looked luminous and splendid; four 
very large candles burning on the table where we supped; three others in differ- 
ent parts of the Room; a gay sociable Assembly, and four well instructed waiters! 
So soon as we rose from supper, the Company formed into a semicircle round 
the fire, and Mr. Lee, by the voice of the Company was chosen Pope, and Mr. 
Carter, Mr. Christian, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Lee, and the rest of the company were 
appointed Friars, in the Play call’d "break the Popes neck.” Here we had 
great Diversion in the respective Judgments upon offenders, but we were all 
dismissed by ten, and retired to our several Rooms. 

Saturday , December 18. After Breakfast, we all retired into the Dancing 
Room, and after the Scholars had their Lesson singly round Mr. Christian, very 
politely, requested me to step a Minuet; I excused myself, however, but signified 
my peculiar pleasure in the accuracy of their performance. There were sveral 
Minuets danced with great ease and propriety; after which the whole company 
joined in country-dances, and it was indeed beautiful to admiration, to see such 
a number of young persons, set off by dress to the best advantage, moving easily, 
to the sound of well performed Music, and with perfect regularity, tho’ ap- 
parently in the utmost Disorder. The Dance continued til two, we dined at half 
after three. ... I observe in the course of the lessons, that Mr. Christian is 
punctual, and rigid in his discipline, so strict indeed that he stuck two of the 
young Misses for a fault in the course of their performance, even in the pres- 
ence of the Mother of one of them ! And he rebuked one of the young Fellows 
so highly as to tell him he must alter his manner, which he had observed through 
the Course of the Dance, to be insolent, and wanton, or absent himself from the 

Late in February of 1775 — scarcely two months before the British 
marched into Lexington and the first battles of the Revolution were 
fought — there came to the Great House on the same day, almost 
at the same hour, both death and life. Philip Ludwell Lee, the second 
master of Stratford, died suddenly, and, at the moment of his interment, 
his first son was born— the new master of Stratford — also named Philip 
Ludwell Lee. Word of these events is given in two letters printed in 
Lee of Virginia. The first is from Henry Lee, cousin and former guard- 
ian of the Stratford children, to William Lee, in London: 

Leesylvania, 1st March, 1775. 

Dear Sir, I have the melancholy news to Inform you of yr Brother Col. Phil’s 
death, who died at Stratford of a nervous Pleurisy on the 21st of last month 

In CONGRESS, July 4 , i//u. 

>fie imatthttoiis^edaraftoit oftfie $trfun- im tfti> States of ( ^uxcricci. 

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C S -l.^y 

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<rr~— eZ—r' 

The Dec/ara/ioi? of Independence, showing 
Francis Lightfoot Lee. 

< yf*A forrrrs 

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v _ . J/7U / 


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sJL" //*~t*~j/Six ? 

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y^A/a /S/r c.o AAd- ryuZ/et^ 

the signatures of Richard Henry Lee and 

/&U Hams', 

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(old CaartJuwJff 



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Jhlford H.rvrn 


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L\ 111 and Inlet 

■ Prat a 111 and 
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Rack Id and 


"Xrw PotutComfart 

>cken Ifland 


Smith TO and 



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and has left Mrs. Lee his widow Very Big with Child; in him Virg’a has lost an 
able Judge . . . this Vacancy I hope you will use your utmost Efforts to fill up 
in Council with your Brother Thos. or Franc: ; as the former will inherit all yr 
Brother’s real Estate in Westmorl’d by your Father's will unless Mrs. Lee’s 
Child should be a son, I could wish the Elonour of the Family to be fixed at 
Stratford, as to your Bro. Col. Rich'd Henry I would by no means have him out 
of the House of Burgesses, as there is at Present the greatest reasons to Expect 
he will succeed Mr. Randolph as Speaker, who is old and infirm. 

The second reference is in another letter to Wilham from Richard, 
or "Squire” Lee of Lee Hall: 

I wrote the 23d of February [1775] you that your Brother, the Honourable 
Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq., departed this Life the 21st of that month; he was 
interred on the 24th of February, his birthday, and a son was born the same 
day and at the time of his Interment. No will has been found. 

The burial place of Philip Ludwell Lee was doubtless the family 
graveyard at Stratford. This is located in the grove of trees eastward 
from the house and at the end of the garden where a vault was erected 
in later years. All Virginia homes had their family graveyards. 

Two years after Philip’s death occurred the death of Thomas Lud- 
well Lee, who was greatly beloved by his brothers and his friends. At 
the meetings of every assembly and convention in which he took part, 
he had stood with his younger brothers on the side of the patriots. His 
passing was deeply mourned. 

Richard Henry wrote to Arthur, then in London, under date of May 
12, 1778: 

It is with infinite pain that I inform you our clear brother of Belleview de- 
parted this life on the 13th of April last, after sustaining a severe Rheumatic 
fever for six weeks. Dr. Steptoe attended him the whole time, and I was also 
with him. Both public and private considerations render this loss most lament- 
able. He had just been appointed one of our five judges of the General Court, 
in which station he was well qualified to do his country eminent service. He has 
left behind him a numerous family (7 children) and a very disconsolate widow. 


Peak’s portrait of Richard Henry Lee in profile shows a gaunt, pale 
face with deep-set cavernous eyes— the face of a man who has come 
through war and cannot forget. It has, too, a curious sense as of one 
never sleeping, always on guard. It is tense, eager, alert, single-minded. 

No other contemporary portraits of Lee are known to the author but 
there are several pen pictures. John Adams said to R. H. Lee: 

With your grandfather, Richard Henry Lee, I served in Congress from 1774 
to 1778, and afterward in the Senate of the United States in 1789- He was a 
yentleman of fine talents, of amiable manners and great worth. As a public 

Richard Henry Lee: From the original portrait by Charles Willson Peale, non in the 
possession of Mrs. Lanier McKee. 



speaker, he had a fluency as easy and graceful as it was melodious, which his 
classical education enabled him to decorate with frequent allusion to the finest 
passages of antiquity. With all his brothers, he was always devoted to the cause 
of his country. 

Charles Campbell wrote of Lee some eighty-five years ago: 

He was in person tall and well proportioned; his features bold and expres- 
sive; nose, Roman; forehead high, not wide; eyes light colored; the contour of 
his face noble. He had lost by an accident the use of one of his hands; and was 
sometimes styled "the gentleman of the silver hand”; he kept it covered with a 
black silk bandage, but leaving his thumb free. Notwithstanding this disadvan- 
tage his gesture was very graceful. His voice melodious, his elocution Ciceronian, 
his diction elegant and easy. His eloquence flowed on in tranquil beauty, like 
the stream of his own Potomac. . . . 

In the generation after him H. Lee wrote about Richard Henry in his 
Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson in the stilted style 
characteristic of the period: 

From what has been said and written of this distinguished man, it appears 
that from the commencement of our revolutionary struggles to their end, he was 
for patriotism, statesmanship, and oratory, regarded as the Cicero of his country. 
He was remarkable even amidst the crowd of patriots for a sensitive and im- 
patient love of liberty; and this he encouraged and inflamed by a fond contem- 
plation of those bright and melancholy examples, which the victims of ancient 
and modern tyranny have left in the characters of Phocion, of Cato, of Sidney, 
and of Russel. This gave to his classical and chaste elocution, a tone of depth 
and inspiration, which, set off as it was by a majestic figure, a noble countenance, 
and a graceful delivery, charmed while it roused or convinced his auditory. 

Though he never poured down upon agitated assemblies, a cataract of 
mingled passion and logic like Patrick Henry, yet he rivetted the excited atten- 
tion and enchanted fancy of his hearers. . . . 

His kinsman’s appraisal of Lee’s oratory seems singularly accurate 
when one reviews the records of the Continental Congress for June 
seventh, 1776. Pursuant to the instructions from Virginia, Richard 
Henry Lee offered the resolution which heralded the final break with 
the mother country. It is breath-taking in its simplicity: 


That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent 
states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that 
all political connection btween them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought 
to be, totally dissolved. 

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for form- 
ing foreign alliances. 

That a plan for confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective 
colonies for their consideration and approbation. 

The following day saw the beginning of the debate on the Lee Reso- 


lution. So important were the implications, so momentous the decision 
involved, and so essential was it to hear from all of the colonies, that 
Congress postponed the final vote for over three weeks. Richard Henry 
Lee defended his resolution in and out of the Congress. 

On June 10th he again rose from his seat and, facing his colleagues, 

Why then do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give 
birth to an American Republic! Let her rise, not to devastate and conquer, but 
to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are upon us, she 
invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the 
persecuted repose. 

In words that proved prophetic, he continued: 

We are not this day wanting in our duty to our country, the names of the 
American legislators of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all those 
whose memory has been, and forever will be dear to virtuous men and good 

Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were among the 
members supporting him. Two days of debate passed. Delegates from 
only seven or eight of the colonies were instructed to vote in favor of 
the Lee Resolution. It was tabled for further consideration and a com- 
mittee elected to draw up a fuller and more detailed announcement, 
pointing out to the colonies the reasons why separation from Great 
Britain was necessary. The men elected to serve on the committee were: 
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, 
and Robert R. Livingston. 

Lee was called to Virginia on June 13 to attend the state convention 
and by strange irony of fate thus missed writing the Declaration based 
upon the resolution of which he was the author. That honor fell to 
Thomas Jefferson. 

On July 1, debate on the resolution started once more, with Lee still 
absent. John Adams was the leader of the delegates approving and 
urging its passage. On the second day of July the vote was called. Lee’s 
motion unanimously carried. 

Two days later, on July 4, the Declaration itself was adopted by the 
Congress. Lee returned to Philadelphia in time to sign the document. 
His name and that of Frank (Francis Lightfoot) are the only brothers 
on that list of the fifty-six Signers. 

From this time Richard Henry Lee was a national figure. He belonged 
no longer to Virginia alone, but to thirteen colonies whose union he 
had labored to bring about. 


One of his first acts as Burgess was to introduce a motion "to lay so 
heavy a duty on the importation of slaves, as effectually to put an end 
to that iniquitous and disgraceful traffic within the colony of Virginia." 
It was his conviction that the interests of the Colony were seriously en- 
dangered by the continued importation of slaves, and the consequent 
checking thereby of white immigration: 

When it is observed that some of our neighbouring colonies, though much 
later than ourselves in point of settlement, are now far before us in improve- 
ment, to what, sir, can we attribute this strange, this unhappy truth ? The rea- 
son seems to be this: that with their whites they import arts and agriculture, 
whilst we, with our blacks, exclude both. Nature has not partially favoured 
them with superiour fertility of soil, nor do they enjoy more of the sun’s cheer- 
ing and enlivening influence; yet greatly have they outstript us. 

Evidently Richard Henry wished to encourage the type of immigrant 
which his father as governor had done so much to bring to Virginia, 
when he sponsored the coming of the pioneer German tradesmen and 
agriculturists. Richard Henry Lee opposed slavery from the day he 
entered public life, and his younger brothers shared his views. For four 
years he served in the Continental Congresses. He was president of the 
first Congress of the United States and later one of the first senators 
from Virginia. He was deeply concerned in the formation of the 
Articles of Confederation and in the development of constructive for- 
eign alliances. During the time the Constitutional Convention was sit- 
ting, Lee had an important share in the creation of the Northwest Ordi- 
nance, that measure which determined in such large part the develop- 
ment of the United States. 

The scene of his activities shifted from Philadelphia to Virginia, then 
to Philadelphia, later to New York, again to Philadelphia, and back at 
last to Chantilly. But it was at Stratford Hall and in the early years at 
Chantilly that he was first cast in the role of Friend of Freedom. There 
had been bred in the bone that nobility, fearlessness, and vision which 
made him one of the first citizens of the country. And of the world as 
well. In a letter to Lafayette, written October 30, 1785, he mentioned 
various alliances designed to promote peace. "Among the many leagues 
that are formed,” he says, "why may not one be made for the purpose 
of protecting the rights of humanity?” For over a century the same 
thought stirred the minds of other champions of union for justice. 
Then the League of Nations was born. 

Although Chantilly on the Potomac, Richard Henry Lee’s home, was 
the one part of Stratford Plantation to be identified with the activities of 


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Letter of Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson to the Go ren/or of Virginia. 


the Lees just prior to and during the Revolution, Bellevue in Stafford 
was also a center for patriot work. There Thomas Ludwell Lee had 
lived from the late seventeen-fifties until his untimely death in 1778. 
He had been a prominent member of the Virginia Convention of 1775, 
where he served on the committee of safety, the only governing body in 
the Colony. He was a member of the committee to draft a declaration 
of rights and a plan of government in the Convention of 1776. In later 
years he served on the committee of which George Mason was chairman, 
to revise the laws of Virginia in accordance with the changed political 
conditions in America. George Wythe and Edmund Pendleton were 
the other two members. 

When the new government was organized under the state constitution, 
he was elected one of the five judges of the General Court, the highest 
court in the state, but died before he could serve. 

There was also another "stronghold of freedom” in the home of the 
Lees’ cousin and former guardian, Henry Lee, and his five sons, Henry, 
Charles, Richard Bland, Edmund Jennings, and Theodoric. Their home, 
Freestone Point, Leesylvania, was in Prince William County, also on the 
Potomac, about three miles from Dumfries. With the exception of 
Henry, who enlisted in the service of the Revolution the year after he 
was graduated from Princeton and became the famous Legion Harry or 
Light-Horse Harry Lee, Henry Lee’s sons were only boys at the time 
their older brother and their Stratford Hall cousins were in the thick of 
the struggle. 

Frank Lee of Menokin, on the Rappahannock, was in his quiet way a 
most ardent revolutionist. He was less widely known than Richard 
Henry and was never in the limelight, but in ability he was not inferior 
to his elder brother and had great political influence. 

No Virginian bent on resisting the British government had a bolder 
spirit than Francis Lightfoot Lee. He took part in every measure of 
defiance to the British government. He was not a good speaker, for 
he was shy, reserved, inarticulate in public. But he had brains. He 
thought things through. He worked behind the scenes. After signing 
the Westmoreland Resolves against the Stamp Act on February 27, 1766, 
he was one of the Burgesses at the meeting in the Apollo Room of the 
Raleigh Tavern. He was a member of the Virginia committee of cor- 
respondence. The call for the Virginia convention of August, 1774, 
was signed by him; and he was a member of that convention as well as 
of the succeeding one of March. In the same year he was chosen a dele- 

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Original verse written by Nancy Shi p pen (Airs. Henry Beekman Livingston ) to her uncle, 
Francis Lightjoot Lee. 


gate to the first Continental Congress to succeed Colonel Richard Bland, 

Frank was the second member of the Lee family to sign the Declara- 
tion of Independence. As a member of the committee which drew up 
the articles of confederation, he gave effective service in the debates on 
the Newfoundland fisheries and in those advocating the free navigation 
of the Mississippi River. He sat in the Continental Congress until June, 
1779. In later years he continued to serve the interests of Virginia as a 
member of Congress. 

Like his brother, Thomas Ludwell, Francis inherited certain of their 
father’s personal characteristics. Thomas Lee’s sincerity, his genial hos- 
pitality, his capacity for evoking steadfast affection and enthusiastic 
support, and his quiet, unostentatious, but forceful manner and method 
of life were to a large extent inherited by his sons Frank and Thomas 

A commentary on Frank Lee, long since out of print, is contained in a 
brief sketch by Mark Twain: 

He dealt in no shams; he had no ostentations of dress or equipage; for he 
was, as one may say, inured to wealth. He had always been used to it. His own 
ample means were inherited. He was educated. He was more than that — he 
was finely cultivated. He loved books; he had a good library, and no place had 
so great a charm for him as that. . . . 

Mr. Lee defiled himself with no juggling, or wire-pulling, or begging, to 
acquire a place in the provincial legislature, but went thither when he was called, 
and went reluctantly. He wrought industriously during four years, never seek- 
ing his own ends, but only the public’s. His course was purity itself, and he 
retired unblemished when his work was done. He retired gladly, and sought his 
home and its superior allurements. No one dreamed of such a thing as "investi- 
gating” him. 

Immediately the people called him again — this time to a seat in the Con- 
tinental Congress. He accepted this unsought office from a sense of duty only, 
and during four of the darkest years of the Revolution he labored with all his 
might for his country’s best behests. He did no brilliant things, he made no 
brilliant speeches; but the enduring strength of his patriotism was manifest, 
his fearlessness in confronting perilous duties and compassing them was patent 
to all, the purity of his motives was unquestioned, his unpurchasable honor and 
uprightness were unchallenged. His good work finished, he hurried back to the 
priceless charms of his home once more, and begged hard to be allowed to spend 
the rest of his days in the retirement and repose which his faithful labors had so 
fairly earned; but this could not be, he was solicited to enter the State Legis- 
lature; he was needed there; he was a good citizen, a citizen of the best and 
highest type, and so he put self aside and answered to the call. . . . 

From points abroad William and Arthur Lee kept in as close touch 


with Francis as they did with Richard Henry. All the family were 
devoted to "Frank and Becky.” A few messages taken at random from 
some of William’s letters to Frank in the Lee Letter Books in Harvard 
College library give a view of the personal side of the warm friendship 
between the two brothers and their wives. On March 27, 1772, William 
writes from London: "Mrs. Lee joins me in affectionate love to you and 
our D r Sister I beg my best respects to Col. Tayloe & the family all at M c 
Airy.” In another letter he sends to Menokin books and magazines, 
Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England, and ends with 
"Heaven bless you both — Farewell.” Again he says: "Mrs. Lee & myself 
have the most affectionat feelings for your sy m [sympathetic] Fireside. 
I thank you for the intelligence about my estate. I cant think Cary W is 
a good crop master, for it is impossible any land could be so poor as in 
the finest years to require the labor of 4 negroes to make 8 or 9 Hogsheads 
of Tobacco. Farewell I wish you health & every other happiness being 
most sincerely & affecionately Yours William Lee.” Again he says: "I 
have only now to assure you & our Dear Sister of Mrs. Lee’s & my 
sincere Love being most truely Yr Affe 1 Friend & Dr William Lee.” 7 

'These excerpts have not been collated with the originals. 



A RTHUR LEE’S chambers, at No. 2 Garden Court, in the Middle 
Temple, London, looked into a delightful little garden on the 
JL jV Thames, of which he had the key: "I could go in and out at all 
hours, and have what company I pleased, without being questioned or 
overlooked. I was near the Royal Society, of which I was a fellow, 
where, every week, whatever was new and ingenious in literature was 
communicated. Not far from me was the hall of the Society of Arts and 
Agriculture, of which I was an honorary member, and where I had ac- 
cess to all the new discoveries in arts, agriculture, and mechanics. 

"The play houses and the opera were equally convenient, where I 
could select the opportunity of seeing the best tragedies and comedies 
represented, and of hearing the most exquisite music. I was a subscriber 
to Bach’s and Abel’s concert, where the most masterly performers of the 
world (Bach, Abel, Fisher, Tassot, Ponto, and Crosdal), played to a 
most polite and fashionable audience, in one of the most elegant con- 
cert rooms in the world. In the field of politics, from the politician in 
the cider-cellar to the peer in his palace, I had access and influence. At 
the Bill of Rights, the city of Landon, the East India House, and with the 
opposition in both houses, I was of some consideration. Among my 
particular friends, to whom I always had access, were Lord Shelburne, 
Mr. Downing, Col. Barre, Mr. Wilkes, Sergeant Glynn, and several 
others. I was so well with several of the nobility and gentry that I 
could spend all my leisure time at their country seats. At Bath I had a 
very extensive acquaintance; and there is not in the world a more agree- 
able place to one so circumstanced. As one of the law, I enjoyed the 
protection and distinction of that body, with the prospect of rising to 
place and profit, which all of that body, who have moderate abilities, 
enjoy. So circumstanced, nothing but the peculiar and extraordinary 
crisis of the times prevented me from being entirely happy, and pur- 
suing the fortune which sat with golden plumes within my reach. But 
everything was absorbed in the great contest which I saw fast approach- 
ing; and which soon called upon me to quit London, and take an open 
part in the Revolution, as a representative of the United States at the 
Court of France.” 1 

Arthur Lee was thus pleasantly "circumstanced” as he says during the 

1 Life of Arthur Lee, by Richard Henry Lee. Boston, Wells and Lilly, 1829, II, 391-392. 


years before the Revolution, from 1768 to 1776, the year he was ap- 
pointed Joint Commissioner from the United Colonies to France. Of all 
the Stratford Lees he had the most varied and perhaps the most inter- 
esting life, associated as it was with foreign places and with men of 
affairs of many parts of England and of Europe. On the playing fields 
at Eton, he formed the basis for later friendships with members of es- 
tablished English families. From Eton Arthur went to the Universitv 
of Edinburgh to study medicine, "general science and polite literature.” 
His father always intended him for the medical profession. In 1764 he 
received his degree as Doctor of Medicine, traveled on the continent 
for several months, and in 1766 returned to Virginia. FFe settled in 
Williamsburg to practice medicine. According to an unpublished letter 
written by Thomas Jones of Virginia to his brother Walter, then a stu- 
dent at the University of Edinburgh: "Mr. Lee arrived here I think about 
4 or 5 weeks past, it is thought he will make a great Figure, as soon as he 
came to WestmorelV he might have had as many patients as he could 
attend, but his being there was only by way of visit to his Friends, & 
then to the Metropolis; where he is to reside.” 

Obviously, Arthur’s return to his own country was influenced by the 
letter from his elder brother Richard Henry, in which he spoke so earn- 
estly of America’s need for— and claim upon — her sons who were fitted 
to aid her: 

But then, my brother, when these, or either of these [arts and learning] are 
acquired, should not their possessor import them into his native country; which 
if forsaken by the best of her sons, must fall into barbarous ignorance, and of 
course, become a fit subject for tyrannical natures to impose arbitrary and injuri- 
ous acts upon. Should America make the same progress in the arts and sciences, 
as she infallibly must do in numbers of people, despotism will quickly learn, 
that her friendship is on no other terms to be obtained than by a free intercourse 
and equal participation of good offices, liberty and free constitution of govern- 

America, then, has a parent’s claim to her descendants, and a right to insist 
that they shall not fix in any place, where, by so doing, they may add strength 
to the cruel and tyrannical oppression. 

It was not long before Arthur joined his brothers in their political 
activities and determined to give up practicing medicine to study law. 
In less than two years he returned to England and entered Lincoln’s Inn, 
and later the Middle Temple, as a law student. The course Arthur had 
originally charted on his return to England from Williamsburg, he 
described years later in a letter to his nephew Tom Shippen. He in- 
tended to try his fortune in Westminster Hall, to become a "British 


subject” and aim for the Chief Justice’s bench or "the Seat of the Ld 
High Chancellor.” And if he obtained the title of "my Lord,” it would 
not perhaps render him less acceptable! He wrote to Tom: "I mark out 
to you the path I intended to pursue, in which six years patient perse- 
verance had advanced me hopefully, when my zeal for liberty & my 
country made me sacrifice all my prospects to embrace their then peril- 
ous & doubtful cause ...” 

He became a member of the society of supporters of the Bill of 
Rights. In a literary controversy in which he engaged with Junius, he 
wrote under the signature of "Junius Americanus” political articles 
that gained him the acquaintance of Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, 
and other eminent men. Lee’s papers, "The Monitor’s Letters,” in vindi- 
cation of colonial rights, were published in 1769. In the following year 
he received his first official appointment with the American colonies — 
Agent for Massachusetts. 

On February 14, 1773, he wrote from London: "I am considered here 
as the most determined supporter of the cause of America. I am there- 
fore so obnoxious as to have no hope of favor here nor am I likely to re- 
ceive any reward from those for whom I have sacrificed myself. Were 
my fortune independent this would not give me a moment’s concern. 
I certainly feel that virtue is its own reward. But at the same time I 
cannot but be sensible that narrowness of circumstances is a very great 
obstacle.” 2 

In 1774 he wrote "An Appeal to the People of Great Britain” which 
was ascribed to Lord Chatham. 

Arthur was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1775 and began to 
practice law in that year. According to his biographer, R. H. Lee, he 
became "a conspicuous and successful advocate, and was in habits of 
intimacy with Dunning and Glynn, and was often engaged in cases 
with them.” He had perhaps a more extensive acquaintance in English 
political and social circles than had any other American of that period. 
Chatham and Burke he knew particularly well, a fact which enabled 
him to be of much value in obtaining what hearing the American cause 

During the summer of 1775 Lee was associated with Richard Penn 
in the effort to present to George III the second petition of Congress to 
the King— the Olive Branch Petition. Issued by the second Continental 

2 Vol. II, Lee Letter Books, Library of Harvard College : Original letter from Arthur, prob- 
ably to Francis Lightfoot Lee : not collated with the original. 

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Signature sheet of the Olive Branch Petition. 


Congress, July 8, 1775, it was written by John Dickinson and sent by 
Richard Penn to London. The Olive Branch Petition was signed by 
Richard Henry Lee, and forty-five other members of Congress, twenty- 
five of whom later signed the Declaration of Independence. Presented 
by Arthur Lee in England, the petition showed the sincerity of the pa- 
triots. It was the last effort made by the American colonies to avert 

In the petition the attention of the King was drawn to several points: 
the benefit to the kingdom of the union with the colonies, and the bene- 
fits which that union contributed to the glory of the colonies and of 
England. It expressed the hope that the fruits of both peace and victorv 
might be shared but showed that such a hope was unlikely to be ful- 
filled because of the new laws and regulations which the royal ministers 
had been unscrupulous enough to levy. And now, Congress, wishing 
to use all the means in her power — or means which could be pursued 
with safety — to stop further bloodshed, petitioned the King to interpose 
in order to relieve the tension in the colonies. 

Lee and Penn saw Lord Dartmouth first on August 21, 1775, but 
could not deliver the original copy of the petition which he was to pre- 
sent to the King September first. Finally a reply was received stating 
that as His Majesty did not receive it upon the throne, no answer would 
be given, but George III had already given his answer in the Procla- 
mation of Rebellion on August 23rd. 

In November, 1775, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Dick- 
inson were appointed a committee by the Continental Congress to carry 
on secret correspondence with the friends of the American colonies 
abroad. On December 12 they appointed Arthur Lee secret agent of 
the Continental Congress in London, and entrusted him with letters and 
dispatches to transmit to other men on the Continent in key positions 
to aid them. They wrote to Lee: 

It would be agreeable to Congress to know the disposition of foreign 
powers towards us, and we hope this object will engage your attention. We 
need not hint that great circumspection and impenetrable secrecy are neces- 
sary. The Congress rely on your zeal and abilities to serve them, and will 
readily compensate you for whatever trouble and expense a compliance with 
their desire may occasion. We remit you for the present £200. 

Whenever you think the importance of your dispatches may require it, we 
desire you to send an express boat with them from England, for which service 
your agreement with the owner there shall be fulfilled by us here. We can 
now only add that we continue firm in our resolutions to defend ourselves, 
notwithstanding the big threats of the ministry. 3 

journals of Continental Congress, Vol. 5, p. 8 27. 


It was in his capacity of secret agent that Arthur Lee entered into 
negotiations with the French government, at first through the medium 
of the ardent Caron de Beaumarchais and later directly with Comte de 
Vergennes, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the same time 
Lee was also officially serving Virginia as agent, and, with the aid of 
Beaumarchais, succeeded in procuring for that Colony warlike stores to 
the value of nearly £260,000 from the royal arsenals of France. 

Sometime before in England, Arthur Lee had taken measures through 
the French Ambassador to Great Britain to interest France in raising a 
financial loan to the colonies. He was tireless in following up efforts to 
win the friendship of France, as of the other courts of Europe for 

Major Henry Lee in his Observations on the Writings of Thomas 
Jefferson, says of his kinsman, Arthur Lee: 

But skill as a writer, though important to Mr. Lee as arming him with an 
effective weapon to be used in the service of his country, furnishes the smallest 
part of his title to its gratitude. His zeal, perseverance, efficiency and disinter- 
estedness, are the great qualities which entitle him to the highest praise. The 
spirit with which he entered upon his public career is evidenced in the following 
extract from a letter of his to his friend, the Earl of Shelburne, afterwards 
Marquis of Lansdowne. f p ^ Decemher 2}d , m ] 

My Lord, — A very few hours after my last letter to your Lordship brought 
me the desire of my country that I should serve her in a public capacity. Your 
Lordship thinks too well of me, I hope, to suppose I could hesitate a moment. 
In fact, almost the same minute saw me bid adieu, perhaps forever, to a country 
where I had fixed my fortunes, and to a people whom I most respected, and 
could have loved. But the first object of my life is my country — the first wish 
of my heart is public liberty. I must see, therefore, the liberties of my countries 
established, or perish in her last struggle. 

Meanwhile William Lee had come to have an important and influen- 
tial civic position in London. Successful as a business man, he was 
elected Alderman of Aldgate Ward. The beginning of the Revolution 
found him holding the office of High Sheriff of London. According to 
Worthington C. Ford in his Letters of William Lee, he was the only 
American ever to have served in such offices in London. In 1777 he was 
appointed commercial agent for the Continental Congress in France. As 
an agent for the Congress, William Lee’s duties included special diplo- 
matic as well as business service. His letters were important as a contri- 
bution to American history, and solve many uncertain and complicated 
points and questions in the foreign relations of the young republic in 
its most critical period. 


The Honorable Blair Lee says of William Lee: "In the tumult of 
London politics his patriotic espousal of the American cause involved 
the sacrifice of a large personal fortune and the loss of a prosperous 

In January, 1777, when William was serving as commercial agent at 
Nantes, he was associated with Thomas Morris. On May 9 he was 
elected commissioner to the courts of Vienna and Berlin and commis- 
sioned July 1, but he was not received at either court. On September 4, 
1778, to quote Wharton: "William Lee and M. de Neufville of the 
Netherlands, drafted a treaty between the United States and the Nether- 
lands at Aix-la-Chapelle, but the treaty was never signed by either 
country. The draft treaty was in the possession of Henry Laurens when 
he was seized by the British on Sept. 3, 1780, and became one of the 
causes of war between the Netherlands and Great Britain.” 

Early in 1779 William was recalled. In Volume One of the Calendar 
of State Papers of Virginia is this letter to Governor Henry, dated Sep- 
tember 24, 1779, written by Lee concerning the recall: 

His Excellency, Gov. Henry, was pleased in 1777, with the advice of the 
Council, to appoint me Agent in France, for the state of Virginia, and in 1778, 
by same authority sent me a power under State Seal to obtain Arms, Artillery 
and Ammunition of his most Xtian Majesty, Ministers or any other persons to 
amount of 2,000,000 Livres, . . . These Documents came to be at Vienna, . . . 
and I also sent a power to my brother, Mr. Arthur Lee, who was then in Paris, 
to solicit the business for me at the Court of Versailles. ... In consequence 
there was obtained from the French Ministry amunition amounting to £219,489-, 
and my brother advanced the money for swords etc., which with other expenses 
amounted to 45,000 Livres. My brother chartered vessels to convey these goods 
to Virginia. . . . (mentions a purchase of very inferior guns, through a chan- 
nel he did not regard highly and hopes they will not reach Virginia) .... 
My brother has given Gov. Henry account of his proceedings and now writes 
me, he has no more money to advance, and needs 27,000 Livres for freight pay- 
ment to ship owners. Having no money myself, we shall be greatly distressed 
unless you can hasten remittances, ... I have heard that Congress has dis- 
pensed with my services. . . . 

In September, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin 
Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson as commissioners to the 
court of France and directed them "to procure from that Court, at the 
expence of these United States, either by purchase or loan, eight line of 
battle ships of 74 and 64 guns, well manned, and fitted in every respect 
for service; That as these ships may be useful in proportion to the quick- 
ness with which they reach North America, the Commissioners be di- 
rected to expedite this negotiation with all possible diligence.” 


Mr. Jefferson informed Congress that the state of his family would 
not permit him to go as their Commissioner to France and Arthur Lee 
was elected in his place. The Committee of Secret Correspondence noti- 
fied Lee of his appointment and that his powers and instructions were 
lodged in Paris. According to the records of the Department of State 
of the United States, Arthur Lee of Virginia was appointed: 

Joint commissioner to court of France with full powers to negotiate treaties: 
elected October 22, 1776, to replace Thomas Jefferson, who had declined ap- 
pointment on the commission; signed, with Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin, 
treaties of commerce and alliance February 6, 1778; commission dissolved Sep- 
tember 14, 1778, upon appointment of Benjamin Franklin as sole minister 

Commissioner also to court of Spain: elected May 1, 1777; commissioned 
June 5, 1777, but never went to Spain on this mission, although he had been 
there previously in the financial interests of the United States. 

The last reference is to Lee’s action in presenting to the Spanish gov- 
ernment a memoir of "The Present State of the Dispute between Amer- 
ica and Great Britain,” and procuring a large money loan from Spain 
for the colonies. In a more or less private capacity he went to Berlin, 
where he corresponded secretly with the Prussian Court and received 
assurance of its friendly interest in the colonies. 

Meanwhile, Lee’s personal relations with Franklin and Deane, never 
pleasant, reached a crisis. Lee charged his colleagues with connivance 
at fraud and corruption and with being under French influence. There 
were charges and counter-charges. An international scandal developed 
which, one hundred and fifty-eight years afterwards, has not been en- 
tirely cleared. Although Lee secured the recall of Deane, Franklin’s 
position seemed impregnable. At length, because of Franklin’s prestige 
and the high regard in which he was held by the French Court, a situa- 
tion arose in which it was considered wise to retire Arthur Lee from the 
diplomatic service. In the fall of 1779, this action was taken, and at the 
same time William Lee was recalled as Commissioner to Holland. 

Arthur Lee, aroused and indignant, returned to America early in 
1780 to place his cause before Congress and the American public. In 
reference to the controversy and its unjust reaction upon him, Lee wrote 
Tom Shippen: 

In return [for years of service] I am now cast off with as much disgrace as 
they can fix upon me, & must spend the remainder of my life in circumstances 
hardly above indegence. An endeavor to shield my Country from the depreda- 
tions of Franklin Deene & Beaumarchais dismissed me before from public em- 
ployment — the same attempt repeated against Morris & his adherents — is now 

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Original letter to the public written by Arthur Lee in Paris. 


the cause of my dismission. Yet upon reviewing the sacrifice I made, & the en- 
deavors that have only ruined myself without benefiting the Public, I cannot 
think I have done more than my duty, or if I were again placed in the path of 
brilliant prospects, which I quitted that I could hesitate to make the same 

Vincit amor Patriae laudumque immensa cupido. 

Adieu, A. Lee. 

In response to Arthur Lee’s able and exhaustive official paper, the 
Continental Congress passed the following resolution: "Resolved, that 
Mr. Lee be further informed, in answered to his letter, that there is no 
particular charge against him before Congress, properly supported; and 
that he be assured his recall was not intended to affix any kind of cen- 
sure on his character, or on his conduct abroad." 

Meantime, at Shippen House a family reunion was held to welcome 
Arthur home. His family and friends rejoiced in his return and took 
up arms in his behalf. Among the many tributes to him is one contained 
in a letter from Samuel Adams to Mr. Warren: 

Now you tell me their art is to prejudice the people against the Lees, and to 
propagate that I am a friend to them. How trifling is this! Am I accountable 
to the people for my opinions of men? If I have found from long and intimate 
acquaintance with those gentlemen that they are and have been, from the begin- 
ning of this contest, among the most able and zealous defenders of the rights 
of America and mankind, shall I not be their friend ? I will avow my friend- 
ship to them in the face of the world. As an inhabitant of Massachusetts Bay, 
I should think myself ungrateful not to esteem Arthur Lee most highly for his 
voluntary services to that State, in times of her greatest need, to the injury of 
his private interest, and at the risk of his life. 


"I am agreeably situated on a Bank commanding the harbour,” Ar- 
thur Lee wrote Tom Shippen April 25, 1790, from Urbanna, Virginia. 
He goes on to say that the harbor is "now pretty well fill’d with ship- 
ping; but there still wants men of Capital here, to make its Commerce 
really respectable. A dozen of your richest Quakers would answer our 
purpose. Detach them forthwith I beseech you.” 

Further excerpts from the unpublished letter show the varied sides of 
this Virginian who was among the nation’s first diplomatic representa- 

I received your favor, of the 18 th , my dear Tom, with singular pleasure. The 
State of Maryland seems not to have thought of any defensive measures. In- 
deed I do not well comprehend any foundation for defence. My request, as you 
state it, was certainly impracticable; but that arose from the post as I put the 
letter in fully in time for the object. 


I shall by no means deem you enthusiastic, in what you say of M r Madison’s 
agreeableness in conversation. I have heard others say the same, & as far as I 
have had experience think with you. It is his political conduct which I condemn, 
that without being a public knave himself he has always been the supporter of 
public knaves, & never, in any one instance has concurred to check, censure, or 
controul them — that he has had such vanity as to suppose himself superior to 
all other persons, conducting measures without consulting them & intolerant of 
all advice or contradiction — that in consequence, he has been dup’d by the 
artful management of the rapacious Morris & the intrigueing Marbois. It is 
possible he may have thought himself right in all this, but in acquitting his 
intention we hazard the credit of his understanding. Something too much of 

You feel nothing but mortification & regret, at the absence of This 

is one of the pleasing anxieties of Love. Absence & distance are its touchstone. 
You will meet again persuaded that you are both more desperately in love than 
when you parted. From that moment all doubts & difficulties will vanish, & 
you will concur in thinking that prudence cruel which proposes to procrastinate 
the completion of your wishes. When once the amiable object of your passion 
is so impress’d, it is much if she dont sway the old ones from their prudential 
plan. I shall not therefore be surpris’d to hear soon that you are at the summit 
of human happiness. Long may it continue so, & may a sober certainty of real 
bliss make you think of your accomplished partner as Adam as express’d him- 
self of Eve — Yet when I approach Her loveliness, so absolute she seems 
And in herself compleat, so well to know 
Her own, that what She wills to do or say 
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best. 

All higher knowledge in her presence falls 
Degraded; wisdom in discourse with her 
Loses discountenanced or like folly shews 
Authority & reason on her wait 
As one intended first, not after made 
Occasionally; & to consummate all. 

Greatness of mind & loveliness their seat 
Build in her loveliest, & create an awe 
About her, as a gaurd angelic plac’d. 

These lines describe the delicious thraldom in which beauty, goodness & 
female wisdom can keep the mind of man, or take the imprison’d Soul, & Cap it 

I am really griev’d at your account of the Debates. The expectations of men 
were extra [illegible]. Their disappointment is proportion’d[ate?]. For my 
own part I think the house as wise & eloquent as I expected; knowing that the 
members were of the different Assemblies & that there wou’d hardly arise any 
thing to elevate the mind or prompt it to extraordinary exertions. Why then 
shou’d we expect more from this Assembly than from those of the several 
States — unless M. l’Enfant’s elevation of the ceiling may be supposed to elevate 
the Disputants. . . . 


In 1781, shortly after Arthur’s return to America and his successful 
defense before Congress, he was elected a member of the Virginia As- 
sembly and represented Virginia in Congress from 1782 to 1785. On 
April 24, 1784, he was appointed one of the commissioners to negotiate 
treaties with the western Indians, an occupation which he did not relish. 
According to Edmund C. Burnett, Arthur Lee had a principal share in 
the negotiation of the treaty of Fort Stanwix, October 22, 1784, and 
that of Fort McIntosh, January 21, 1785. Elected later to the Board of 
Treasury, he continued to serve in Congress and also in the Virginia 
Flouse of Delegates, until his retirement in 1789. He supported his 
brother Richard Henry in opposing the adoption of the Federal Con- 
stitution without measures to safeguard civil liberties. 

John Adams refers to Arthur Lee as "a man of whom I can not think 
without emotion; a man too early in the service of his country to avoid 
making a multiplicity of enemies; too honest, upright, faithful and 
intrepid to be popular; too often obliged by his principles and feelings 
to oppose Machiavellian intrigues, to avoid the destiny he suffered. This 
man never had justice done him by his country in his lifetime, and I fear 
he never will have by posterity.” 

The grant of a tract of land in the province of Maine was given to 
Lee "and his heirs forever,” by the State of Massachusetts. Possibly this 
gift came through the influence of the Adams family. However, it was 
not New England Arthur selected for the home of his latter years, but 
the South. 

Glimpses of Arthur’s personal life during this period are given in 
numerous letters preserved in the Shippen papers. Nancy Shippen writes 
much about her uncle in her Journal Book: 

My Linde Arthur Lee came to spend the day with me & we spent it very 
merrily & happily, in the evening we went accompanied by my fair neighbor to 
take a pleasant walk in the fields — we had not walked far when we perceived a 
small house at the foot of [the] hill with a little green lawn before the door & 
a very little garden on the right hand full of vegetables & a few flowers — the 
neatness of the place temped us to walk in where we found a venerable old man 
& his wife & dog which made the whole of this poor family the old man was 
too old to work, & so the wife who is not much younger gathers wild herbs & 
carries them on her head to the market which is five miles from where she lives — 
in order to get a living — I asked her what she lived on, she said a little bread 
when she could get it, or anything else — in a very hospitable manner she offered 
us some of a very brown loaf she had just made; we accepted it because it would 
give her pleasure — My uncle laid a piece of silver on their clean wooden table 
which the old woman did not perceive till we were going away when she hon- 

Arthur Lee: From the original portrait by Charles Willson Peale, now in possession of 
the Virginia Historical Society, to whom it was presented by Charles Carter Lee. 


estly offered it to us, thinking it was left by mistake — it was returned to her with 
assurances of our good opinion of her — It was late before we got home & we 
talk’d much of our little adventure. 

Although referring to the regions of Philadelphia as "sober,” Arthur 
Lee found much to intrigue him there in the fascinations of the ladies. 
Despite his experience in Berlin, Paris, and London, he was curiously 
diffident when it came either to "amours” or matrimonial advances at 
home. As his letters to Nancy show, he engaged her to make his mar- 
riage proposals for him — to successive young ladies! When all failed, 
he wistfully resigned himself, at the age of forty-nine, to the permanent 
state of single blessedness. 

In 1789, Arthur’s brother-in-law, Dr. Shippen, writes to Tom in Lon- 
don: "Your Uncle Arthur spent 3 days with us last week on his way to 
Virginia to return in 3 weeks. He proposes to resign this year & go to 
his farm — is well and wishes to hear of your reception at Ld. Lands- 
downs & of your close attention at Westminster Hall.” 

After his retirement from public life Arthur returned to Virginia. 
The day before he left Shippen House, his sister Alice wrote to her son: 

. . . Your dear Uncle will take this to Baltimore & send it by Post, he 
sets out tomorrow for Virginia & I must again part with a Brother most 
dear to me as such but he is much more so for his many virtues the more 
I am with him the more I admire him as the Citizen & the Patriot. After 
Serving his Country with Zeal & faithfulness, after Sacrificing himself in de- 
tecting the plots of the British Ministry a-gainst us & after a second sacrifice of 
himself in discovering the villiany of those in whom we had placed our 
confidence he now manifests his disinterestedness in serving us by shewing 
the greatest calmness & patience under the ingratitude & injustice with which he 
is treated & is continually sugesting & to us the wisest measures [word inde- 
cipherable} & wishing the best things for this Country from he himself has 
nothing to expect. He returns to Philadelphia] in the Spring . 4 . . . 

Arthur bought a plantation in Middlesex County near Urbanna, then 
the county seat, and during the eighteenth century one of the busiest 
of the Rappahannock ports. Its original seventeenth century name of 
Nimcock or Wormeley’s Creek had been changed in 1705 to the city of 
Anne — Urbanna — in honor of Queen Anne. The reason Arthur selected 
Urbanna as his home is not clear. Possibly it was because certain of his 
most congenial friends lived near by: the Wormeleys at Rosegill, the 
Grvmes family at Brandon, the Carters at Corotoman. 

Lee named his country seat Lansdowne, in memory of his friendship 

4 Letter from A. Shippen to her son. From original letters loaned the writer by Dr. Lloyd P. 


with Lord Shelburne, Marquis of Lansdowne, and pleasant visits to his 
country home in England, Bow-Wood Park. 

The house that stands at Urbanna today in the center of the once 
carefully kept garden, is of stately Georgian aspect, even with the addi- 
tions and changes of the eighteen eighties. If this is the original Lans- 
downe House built by Arthur Lee, his fear of "indegence,” of which 
he wrote his nephew, was, happily, not realized. Another letter to Tom 
Shippen written by Arthur, March 26, 1792, refers to Lansdowne: 

... I have been occupied totally with my farm, planning fields, ditches & 
enclosures. I have sowed eight acres with clover seed, alone & two with the 
addition of plaister of Paris; you shall know the result. I have planted some 
hundreds of locust, weeping willows, rose bushes etc. etc. about my house, 
which I intend to make a wilderness of sweets. I take to my Farm as naturally 
as your little Boy does to his bottle, & am not less fond of it. We shall be in 
our infancy when you come to see us in the Summer but very happy in receiving 

Thus, Arthur Lee settled down benignly in his "wilderness of sweets,” 
evidently glad to take up again the study of botany to which he was 
devoted, to farm on a small scale, and to make a home in which to receive 
his friends and kinspeople. According to the historian Campbell, Ar- 
thur Lee "meditated writing a history of the American Revolution.” 
It was difficult for him to readjust his life. Much of the time he was 
melancholy and yearned for the delights that once were his when he 
lived in London and had a little garden on the Thames. Thoroughly 
disillusioned with public life — and politics — as were all of his brothers, 
Arthur was content to sow clover seed, plant rose bushes, read his well- 
loved French books. For he had at Lansdowne, those cherished French 
books and manuscripts he mentions in his will, and many things associ- 
ated with his life at European courts: his cloth of silver coverlet and his 
"gold enameled Snuff Box set with diamonds,” presented to him by the 
King of France through the Comte de Vergennes; his gold sleeve but- 
tons "with pictures in them,” his diamond ring, his plate — and his red 
and white "China of Sevres.” But he did not long enjoy his quiet re- 
treat, for he died on December 12, 1792. 

Shortly before Arthur’s death Richard Henry, who had been ill for 
several years, resigned from the United States Senate and retired from 
all public activities. He returned to Chantilly, never again to leave it, ex- 
cept to come after Arthur’s death and probate his will at Urbanna. 

After their triumph in the political affairs of the nation, when Rich- 
ard Henry and his three younger brothers had reached the full tide of 



their power, the ebb set in. Their opposition to the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution created misunderstandings and misinterpretation 
of their efforts — and their motives — on all sides. They and many other 
patriots with them felt that the right of self-government achieved by the 
American Revolution was at stake. Their concern is expressed in a letter 
which Richard Henry Lee wrote Patrick Henry September 14, 1789: 

The amendments were far short of the wishes of our convention, but as they 
are returned by the Senate they are certainly much weakened. The most essential 
danger from the present system arises, in my opinion, from its tendency to a 
consolidated government instead of a Union of confederated States 

In their endeavor to introduce changes while the Constitution was 
still before Congress, Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson wrote 
on September 28, 1789, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives 
of Virginia that they had been unable to effect the changes named in their 
instructions as delegates: 


We have now the honor of enclosing the proposition of Amendments to the 
Constitution of the United States that has been finally agreed upon by Con- 
gress. We can assure you Sir that nothing on our part has been omitted to pro- 
cure the success of those radical Amendments proposed by the Convention, and 
approved by the Legislature of our country, which as our Constituent, we shall 
always deem it our duty, with respect and reverence to obey. The journal of the 
Senate herewith transmitted, will at once shew how exact and how unfortunate 
we have been in this business. It is impossible for us not to see the necessary 
tendency to consolidated empire in the national operation of the Constitution, 
if no further amended than now proposed. And it is equally impossible for 
us not to be apprehensive for Civil Liberty, when we know of no instance in the 
records of history, that shew a people ruled in freedom when subject to one un- 
divided government, and inhabiting a territory so extensive as that of the United 
States: And when, as it seems to us, the nature of man and of things join to 
prevent it. The impracticability in such case of carrying representation suf- 
ficiently near to the people for procuring their confidence and consequent 
obedience, compels a resort to fear resulting from great force, and excessive 
power in government. Confederated Republics, where the federal hand is not 
possessed of absorbing power, may permit the existence of freedom, whilst it 
preserves union, strength, and safety. Such amendments therefore, as may 
secure against the annihilation of the State governments we devoutly wish to see 

If a persevering application to Congress from the States that have desired 
such amendments should fail of its object, we are disposed to think, reasoning 
from causes to effects, that unless a dangerous apathy should invade the public 
mind, it will not be many years before a constitutional number of Legislatures 
will be found to demand a Convention for the purpose. 

We have sent a complete set of the Journals of each house of Congress, and 


thro the appointed channel will be transmitted the Acts that have passed this 
Session, in these will be seen the nature and extent of the judiciary, the estimated 
expences of the Government, and the means, so far adopted, for defraying the 

We beg Sir to be presented with all duty to the honorable House of Repre- 
sentatives, and to assure you that we are, with every sentiment of respect and 

The Lees were convinced that the Constitution pending before Con- 
gress endangered the cause of civil liberty to which they had dedicated 
their lives. These ideas Richard Henry again voices in a letter to George 
Mason of Gunston Hall: 

It seems pretty clear at present, that four other states, viz. North Carolina, 
New-York, Rhode Island, and New-Hampshire, will depend much upon Vir- 
ginia for their determination on the convention project of a new constitution; 
therefore it becomes us to be very circumspect and careful about the conduct we 
pursue, as, on the one hand, every possible exertion wisdom and firmness 
should be employed to prevent danger to civil liberty, so, on the other hand, the 
most watchful precaution should take place to prevent the foes of union, order, 
and good government, from succeeding so far as to prevent our acceptance of 
the good part of the plan proposed. 

To Samuel Adams Lee he writes: 

But I think that the new constitution (properly amended) as it contains many 
good regulations might be admitted. And why may not such indispensable 
amendments be proposed by the conventions, and returned with the new plan 
to Congress, that a new general convention may so weave them into the prof- 
fered system as that a web may be produced fit for freemen to wear? 

When the Federal Constitution was before Congress, Lee was its most 
outspoken critic and led the forces opposed to its adoption, so long as it 
lacked a bill of rights and the other measures his group held essential. 
All the strength he had left was concentrated upon the fight to bring to 
fruition the ten amendments he with others advocated. In this he was 
successful. In speaking of his stand he wrote Tom Shippen on February 
5, 1794, from Chantilly: 

. . . You are certainly not mistaken in your opinion that I love my Country 
- — This passion (if it may be so called) has been deeply engraved upon my 
mind soon after it became capable of reflection — And perhaps it may be owing 
to this love of my country with opportunities of knowledge furnished by long 
& attentive public service together with that period of life when Confidence is 
a plant of slow growth; that I politically differ from some persons whose opin- 
ion on any other occasion would command the most respectful attention. . . . 5 

During the time Richard Henry Lee was in the United States Senate 

5 Shippen Papers, Vol. II, Library of Congress. This letter has not been collated with the 

Signature sheet of the Treaty of Alliance between the United States and France, signed February 6, 1778. 


(March 4, 1789-October 8, 1792) he served on innumerable committees 
and took a most active part in helping to build the government. 

A few of the outstanding reports made by him in the First Congress 
are: On the time, place and manner of inauguration of the President; 
On the proper title for the President of the United States (Recommends 
that the President be addressed as "His Highness, the President of the 
United States of America, and Protector of their Liberties”); On the 
establishment of judiciary (he reported the bill to establish courts) ; 
On the bill for making further provision for payment of debts of the 
United States; On the public debt (Recommending duties to be levied 
on imports; list of articles and amount of duties to be levied on each), 
and On allowing pensions to persons disabled in the service of the 
United States. 6 

Richard Henry Lee was at the head of the committee to which was 
committed the bill "An act to enable the officers and soldiers of the 
Virginia line, on continental establishment, to obtain titles to certain 
lands lying northwest of the river Ohio, between the Little Miami and 
Sciota.” On July 21, 1790, he reported the bill without amendment. 7 

Richard Henry Lee had an important share in the creation of that 
great instrument of government, the Northwest Ordinance. 

Besides Lee’s service as a member of Congress, Virginia Assemblyman, Presi- 
dent of Congress, and first United States Senator from Virginia during this 
period so important in American political and constitutional development, he 
maintained a correspondence still more extensive apparently than before. He 
added some threescore persons, many of whom were conspicuous in home and 
foreign affairs, to the ten or more prominent public men he had retained from 
among the correspondents of the earlier time. 

The letters disclose the inner workings of Congress and abundantly show 
Lee’s continued devotion to the cause of independence and to the union of the 
states under the Confederation, for both of which he had moved in Congress 
in 1776. Even while in the Virginia Assembly he kept national ends in mind, 
and like Jefferson, had a vision of the West. He pressed his state for a cession 
of her claims to the lands beyond the Ohio that Maryland might accede to the 
Union and that there might be a national domain from which new states could 
be created. 8 

To the political complications of the late seventeen-eighties were 
added in the next decade the beginnings of American diplomatic dif- 
ficulties. Friendship with France was imperilled by the Revolution of 

“The complete list of Richard Henry Lee’s Reports, with a brief digest and analysis, has 
been compiled by Dr. Hugh Morrison of the Library of Congress. 

7 Senate Journal, July 21, 22, 1790. 

s Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Vol. 2, by James Curtis Ballagh. By permission of The Mac- 
millan Company, publishers. 


1793. Washington’s stand against alliance with a France in chaos and 
the clamor leading to Genet’s recall; the strained relations with England 
and the ugly machinations of the Jay Treaty, which bridged with cob- 
webs the widening chasm between the United States and Europe, brought 
profound disillusionment to the patriots of 1776. "Politics is the science 
of fraud,” Richard Henry said to Tom Shippen. "The world seems 
crazy,” Frank Lee said in a letter from Williamsburg early in this decade, 
"and we old people must scuffle with it, as well as we can, for our few 
days of existence.” 

"We old people!” What a strange phrase for the Stratford Lees who 
had so short a time ago been the young leaders of a young nation! 

For them indeed the tide was going out. 

On March 8, 1794, Richard Henry Lee wrote to the President of his 
increasing infirmities and received Washington’s affectionate good 
wishes for his friend’s return to health: 

I learn with regret that your health has continued bad ever since I had the 
pleasure of seeing you at Shuter’s Hill. Warm weather, I hope, will restore it. 
If my wishes could be of any avail, you assuredly would have them.” 

Spring came to Chantilly with the narcissi which bloom there as in 
no other spot on the Potomac cliffs. But it brought no comfort to the 
master of the house. On the twenty-fourth day of June he died and was 
buried beside his first wife, his parents, and grandparents in Burnt 
House Fields. 

Today, in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, on either side of the door 
leading into the room in which the Declaration of Independence was 
signed, is a tablet. The one on the right commemorates the services of 
George Washington; that on the left, those of Richard Henry Lee. Thus 
appear, linked together before the threshold in America’s greatest public 
shrine, the names of two men born in the Colony of Virginia in the same 
year, on neighboring plantations — friends throughout their lives and co- 
workers in the cause for independence. 

i i i i 

At the time Richard Henry died, his brother William, at Green Spring 
was ill, despondent, and growing blind. He had been back in Virginia 
for about ten years; but his health was broken when he came home 
from the ruin of his place and fortunes abroad, shortly after the Revo- 
lution. In America however, he had a half of the vast Berkeley and Lud- 
well estates which had come to him by marriage. At first he made his 

“March, 1933, Magazine of the Society of the Lees of Virginia, p. 74. 

The site of Chantilly-on-the-Potomac, home of Richard Henry Lee. 


home in the old Castle built by Governor Berkeley one hundred and 
forty years before. 

It had been the birthplace and early home of his wife, Hannah Philippa 
Lee. But as she was preparing to return to it, she died suddenly at 
Ostend and was buried in Bow Church, London, beside her father and 
her great-grandfather, the first Philip Ludwell. Her two daughters, 
Portia and Cornelia, came to live with their father and brother at Green 

William Lee engaged Benjamin Latrobe to design a new house on 
rising ground at the rear of the Castle, which was in a ruinous condition, 
unfit for habitation, and he tore down the old historic structure. 

A letter from Frank Lee about this time throws light on the situation 
of both brothers: 

Menokin, 30 April, 1795. My Dear Brother [William]: I can readily con- 
ceive, and it is with very great concern, the distressed situation you must be in; 
and it gives me pain when I reflect how little it is in my power to assist you. 
Mrs. Lee and myself are little fitted for the fatigues of travelling; she, thank 
God! seems recovering from her long ill state of health; but I have no reason 
to expect otherways than a regular decline of the small portion of bodily powers 
that I at present possess; for the last twelve months, I feel the decline very 
sensibly. Were we ourselves in a proper situation we have at present no con- 
veniency for travelling. 

I can’t but still flatter myself that the good weather of May will enable you 
to bear easy travelling, which would probably contribute much to restore you to 
a tolerable state of health. As to worldly matters, I think you should make 
your mind easy on that score; you will at all events leave a sufficiency to your 
children, to make them happy, unless they are much wanting to themselves; in 
which case millions would be insufficient. 

It gives me comfort that there is a prospect of procuring you a housekeeper, 
who will remove many of your domestic inconveniences. Mr. Aylett Lee is 
seriously very confident that he can procure one against whom there is no ob- 
jection; but that she is high spirited and keeps very strict hand upon the servants; 
the excess of which may, I think, with a little prudence be qualified; tho’ a 
Scotch woman, he says, from particular acquaintance, he knows her to be very 
cleanly. He has just left us for the district court at Fredericksburg, where he 
is to make the necessary inquiries, settle matters and write you by post. 

I am so very little in the world and find it so impossible to get anybody to do 
any business for me, that I am obliged to have recourse to Mr. Wilson for a 
bill for Mr. Thorp; but I have reason to hope it will not fail a second time. The 
world seems crazy, and we old people must scuffle with it, as well as we can, 
for our few days of existence. With the warmest wishes that you may recover a 
better state of health, I am, my dear Brother, yours most affectionately. 

Less than two months later William died, June 27, 1795, and was 


buried in the churchyard at Jamestown Island. His daughters were en- 
trusted to the guardianship of Frank and Becky Lee. In his will, William 
freed all of his slaves and provided for them. The library at Green 
Spring he bequeathed to Bishop Madison. 

Francis Lightfoot Lee was now the last survivor of the famous broth- 
ers. Years before they withdrew from public life, he had sought to 
retire from politics and had finally succeeded. At Menokin there was 
peace. Two years later, in the winter of 1797, the end came for Frank 
and his beloved wife, Rebecca. On January 25 of this year, Tom Ship- 
pen wrote from Williamsburg to his parents in Philadelphia: 

My poor uncle Frank has paid his last debt to nature, following Mrs Lee 
who went a few days before him. I have no doubt but her death hastened his, 
as her constant attendance upon him is said to have occasioned the illness which 
proved fatal to her. 

William L Lee has in consequence of these two unexpected deaths sent here 
for a chariot to bring his sisters who both lived at Menoken to Green Spring 
where they will live henceforward in all probability with him. . . . 

. . . Love to all friends my dear Mother last of the Stratford Lees in par- 

Yours always and ever y e same 

Th: L: Shippen 

Thus passed the last of the patriot brothers. Philip had died at the time 
when the first shot of the Revolution was heard round the world; 
Thomas Ludwell, at the moment the light of help from France streamed 
over America’s dark horizon, light that his brother Arthur helped to 

Arthur, Richard Henry, William, and Frank died in the space of five 
years, between 1792 and 1797. Of all the family, but one remained — the 
youngest sister, Alice Lee Shippen. She, alone, of this generation of the 
Stratford Lees, was to live into the new century. 

i i i i 

The public services of the Lees of Stratford are impressively set forth 
in the county, state, and national documents initiated, composed and 
directed by them. They begin with the Treaty of Lancaster, initiated and 
brought to a successful conclusion by Thomas Lee in 1744. The second 
papers of import to the Thirteen Colonies came twenty years later, the 
Address to the King and the Memorial to the House of Lords, drawn by 
Richard Henry Lee. They were his first public productions. 

The Westmoreland Resolves, initiated by Thomas Ludwell Lee and 
adopted at Leedstown in 1766, were drafted by Richard Henry, and 
signed by the four brothers and two of their Lee cousins. For more than 


fifty years the original document was among the historic papers kept at 
Stratford Hall. 

The Westmoreland Resolutions of 1774 and of 1775 were drawn up 
by Richard Henry Lee. In the latter year he wrote his Address to the 
People of Great Britain and signed the Olive Branch Petition, which, 
through his brother Arthur, was presented to the King. 

Then came the Lee Resolution, a pivotal document in the nation’s 
history, offered by Richard Henry Lee in the Continental Congress, June 
7, 1776, adopted July 2, and ratified July 4 in the form of the Declaration 
of Independence, signed by Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee. 

Arthur Lee was one of the four makers and signers of the document 
recording the first public recognition of the independence of the United 
States by a foreign power — the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and 
Alliance eventual and defensive between the United States and France — 
negotiated in Paris and signed there, February 6, 1778. 

In chronological order these documents are: 

1744: The Lancaster Treaty. 

1764: Address to the King. 

1764: Memorial to the House of Lords. 

1766: The Westmoreland Resolves or The Leedstown Resolutions. 

1774: The Westmoreland Resolutions of ’74. 

1775: The Westmoreland Resolutions of ’75. 

1775 : Address to the People of Great Britain. 

1775: The Olive Branch Petition. 

1776: The Lee Resolution for Independence. 

1776: The Declaration of Independence. 

1778: Treaty of Alliance with France. 

1787: The Tenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. 


A LICE LEE SHIPPEN had a definite part in the lives of her patriot 
brothers throughout the period of their most active public serv- 
* ice. It was the part of Martha; but it had a special significance 
and use, for Alice made a home in Philadelphia for her brothers. Her 
house became theirs. All that she and her husband, Dr. William Shippen, 
Jr., had was freely shared with her kinspeople and their Virginia com- 
patriots. At a time when most of the taverns in the capital city of the 
United Colonies were practically uninhabitable and the food disastrous 
to taste and health alike, Shippen House provided a dwelling place with 
every charm and comfort and a never failing welcome for Richard 
Henry and Frank, their families and their friends, and, later for Arthur 

During the Revolution Dr. Shippen was Director General of the 
Military Hospitals of the Armies of the United States. He thus shared 
with his wife and her family their devotion to the cause of Independence. 

Although Alice had been a young girl at Stratford when her mother 
died in 1749, she was evidently trained in the art of household manage- 
ment as her elder sister Hannah was. She attended the Stratford School 
with her brothers, Frank and William, and evidently received the same 
type of instruction given them. She was well grounded in Latin and the 
classics — an exceptional circumstance for girls of that middle eight- 
eenth century period. In 1758 Alice acted as one of the godmothers of 
Thomas Ludwell Lee, eldest son of Richard Henry and his first wife, 
Anne Aylett. The record from the family Bible (of Richard Henry Lee) 
is that Thomas "was christened by the Rev. Mr. Charles Ross on the 
26th day of November, 1758. His sponsors were the Honourable Philip 
Ludwell Lee, Gawen Corbin, Esq., Capt. William Allerton, Miss Alice 
Lee, Mr. Allerton and Miss Mary Aylett.” 

When, in the spring of 1760, Alice Lee left her birthplace, Stratford 
Hall, to sail for England, she had not expected to return to America. 
It was one of the strange plays of destiny that she should meet in London 
the young Philadelphia medical student, William Shippen, Jr., marry 
him, and come back to settle in his own city in a lovely Georgian house 
his father built. 

In the two years Alice spent in London she probably supplemented her 
Virginia experience with many glimpses of the household machinery in 
well-ordered homes of her kinsmen and friends established there. For 
Shippen House seems to have been managed by Alice Lee with skill 
and with the quiet order, beauty, and comfort of an English home. Yet 

[ 192 ] 



at the same time, it had the elasticity, informality, and charm of the Vir- 
ginia household. 

George Washington often refers in his diaries and letters to this Phila- 
delphia home and family which he visited so frequently. When he came 
to Philadelphia as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, 
he "lodg’d” at Shippen House with Richard Henry and Frank Lee. In 
1775 he closes a letter to Richard Henry Lee in Philadelphia with re- 
spectful compliments to "the good family you are in, your brother, See. 
I remain, dear sir, Your most affectionate humble serv’t. . . . P.S. Tell 
Doctor B [W.j Shippen, that I was in hopes that his business would 
have permitted him to come here [as] director of the hospital.” Another 
message comes from the camp at Cambridge, "... with sincere regard, 
for my fellow labourers with you, Doctor Shippen’s family, &c. I am, 
dear Sir, your most affectionate serv’t. ...” On April 4, 1776, the gen- 
eral writes Lee: "I pray you to make my best wishes acceptable to the 
good doctor, his lady, and family, Sec.” 1 

Only during the British occupation when Dr. Shippen was in the field, 
Alice a refugee, and the children at boarding school were the hospitable 
doors of Shippen House closed. 

Among the many acknowledgments for courtesies given by the Ship- 
pen family to the Lees, this excerpt from one of Frank’s letters to Tom 
Shippen expresses their feeling: 


April 25, 1795 

. . . Tell my dear friend your father, that I never cease to feel the most af- 
fectionate gratitude for his many kindnesses to us during our stay in Philadel- 
phia, and it is with regret that 1 now begin to despair of ever seeing him in this 
Country to make all the returns in my power. May he live to build many more 
houses & enjoy every comfort in them, interrupt for a moment my Sister’s 
happy occupations with her little people, by reminding her of my affection. M f s 
Lee joins me in most ardent wishes for your perfect recovery and love to M rs 
Shippen & the little ones, believe me, as I am 

Y r most aff e friend 
F. L. Lee 

At the time of the seventeen-fifties when Shippen House was built, on 
the corner of South Fourth and Locust Streets, the section was Philadel- 
phia’s "Court End” — the fashionable quarter of the city. Some years 
later Independence Hall arose within a short distance of this northern 
headquarters of so many of the Virginians. 

An evening described by Dr. Shippen in a letter dated January 23, 

1 Lee, Memoir of R. H. Lee, II, 7, 5, 11 


1797, is typical of many gatherings at Shippen House in the last third of 
the eighteenth century: 

My dear Son — 

Yesterday M r . Jefferson sat on my right & M r Pinckney on my left hand — 
Gen 1 Gunn was opposite to me his right & left were supported by your friends 
Rutledge & D r . Jones the middle collumn consisted of R. B. Lee M r . Collins 
Charles Lee, Gen. V. Cortland, senator Langdon D r . Wistar — Maj r . Burrows 
& Dr Blair ask’d a blessing.— Aristocrats & democrats a very sociable party — 
Jefferson was great & M r . Pinckney rose much in my good opinion as a man of 
sense tho oppos’d by y e vice-president. Your mother gave us one of her old 
dinners, they sat till 8 oClock. . . . 

The Congress are very busy & warm in determining whether they are obliged 
to support all the foreign ministers the President chooses to appoint — Brent 
made a very elegant & strong speech against it yesterday. Rutledge praised it 
much. Gallatin has shone too — I will send them by the first vessel. . . . 

Around the lives of Alice Lee and William Shippen and their two 
children, Nancy and Tommy, revolved many historic and dramatic epi- 
sodes connected with Stratford and the Lees. From old diaries and fam- 
ily letters a clear picture is given of Alice Lee and the daily life at 
Shippen House. Where John Adams speaks of her as "a Religious and 
Reasoning Lady,” Martha Bland (Mrs. Theodoric Bland of Cawsons, 
Virginia) finds her "gay and agreeable.” Nancy Shippen (Mrs. Henry 
Beekman Livingston) writes in her Journal Book that her mother "is a 
woman of strong sense, & has a Masculine understanding; a generous 
heart, & a great share of sensibility.” J. B. Cutting paid his tribute to her 
in September, 1791, when he wrote Tom: "Forget not I beseech you, to 
express to your best of mothers my just sense of her extraordinary 
strength of mind, that is only exceeded by the strength of the affections 
of her heart — Never was there a [mjother of more fortitude, or more 
maternal fondness!” 

Alice Lee’s great-niece, Lucy Grymes Lee (Mrs. Bernard M. Carter), 
was on intimate terms with her always and often thanked "Aunt Shippen 
in behalf of Her two daughters Josephine & Matilda” for various gifts. 
One note "for the pretty necklaces you sent them by their dear Papa and 
with their Mother will ever fondly cherish the remembrance of your 
affection & kind attentions. ...” 

Through the hard years of the Revolution when Alice was separated 
so long from her husband and children, especially during the time when 
she was at Stratford, her anxious care for her family never faltered. 

On January 17, 1778, she wrote her husband from Stratford: 

. . . it is now two months since I parted with our dear our only son, the 



pledge of our love & have not heard once from him — surely if he was well he 
wou’d contrive a letter to me, he is certainly ill or dead of that vile feaver Crags 
son had, my fears render me so miserable it is impossible for me to stay here 
where I find I cannot hear from those I love most. I shall return to Frederick- 
Town where you must my dear M r Shippen get a lodging for me. . . . 

. . . tell me if you think our dear Girl improves by being with M rs Rogers. 
I don’t think she improves in her writing, I mean the manner & pray don’t let 
her wear a ribbon on her shoulders it will certainly make her crooked. . . . 

After the Shippens had returned to their home in Philadelphia, Tom’s 
education was a matter of great concern to his mother, as this letter to 
him at William and Mary shows: 

Philadelphia 20 November 1783 

I have received your dear welcome letter & thank you for it. . . . Tis with 
difficulty I can support your absence but I have long learnt to prefer your inter- 
est to mine. I comfort myself that you are receiving instruction under the most 
able professors among y r friends & relations. Give my love to them particularly 
y r Uncle William. Tell him I congratulate him on his arrival in his Native 
country where I wish he may long be happy & usefull. 

Have you seen a Pamphlet publish’d in Virginia on the injustice of our paying 
British debts? Ask y r . Uncle if he has seen it & wh he woul’d think if he were 
told yh we were obliged to give this up because we cT not carry on the war any 
longer for want of money. Charles Thomson gives your Uncle Arthur all the 
credit for the removal of Congress from Philadelphia; at another time he 
wou’d not alow him the honor of having so much influence. 

Present my compliments to M rs . Wythe Nelson & Beal & tell them I shall 
never forget their politeness to you & will be very happy to execute any of their 
commands here. Your friend Holingsworth is very polite to me & all your ac- 
quaintances appear to be very much interested in your welfare. Your Uncle has 
left us & I am very much concern’d that it was so little in our power to take 
proper notice of him. If my love for you cou’d be encreasd your attention to 
him wou’d have encreased it. I feel your separation from me every day more 
sensibly, every apartment reminds me of you. I look at the chair where you 
used to sit & remember with the most tender affection how you made me forget 
the hours of sickness by some well read history or pleasing conversation. It 
pleased because it was to the advantage of every one you spoke of. I must see 
you in the Spring but you must tell me how long your vacancy will last. I am 
very glad y r . Papa has got the money for you. I hope he will always have 
enough for you to exercise your humanity as well to carry on y r studies & I am 
happy in the consideration that vou may be trusted, that you will not be extrava- 
gant & I know you are not covetous. . . . 

My darling son you have turn’d vour thots to a particular profession but I 
wish you to consider all its duties, all its advantages & disadvantages, then de- 
termine & always remember mv dear son that you are a candidate for eternity 
& carefully guard against every thing that you find by experience interferes with 
that grand object. Carefully watch over your heart for that is the source of good 



& evil in yourself. Bring it every day to the dear Redeemer to be renew’d. 
Acquaint yourself well with the doctrines of Grace & the liberty of Man & as 
the mind wants daily nurishment as well as the body, make it an invariable rule 
to read some pious author especially the holy Scriptures. Nothing can be above 
their sublemnity; their subject is God, their precepts are perfect, their stories 
the most interesting, and their examples most shining. I wou’d particularly 
recommend the Psalms & the book of Job. How high are his tho’ts of God! 
How pathetic are his writings! & as you have increased my happiness here 
increase it tenfold hereafter by leting me spend a happy eternity with my 
darling Child. I write as if this were in your own power & so far it is. The 
means certainly are & a diligent use of them are inseperably connected with the 

Y r . Father & Sister have given you the news of this world. Give me leave to 
remind you of the most joyful news from heaven. Jesus Christ is come into the 
world to save Sinners, In this our hearts shou’d rejoice continually. Never dis- 
pute on religion. I know it will answer no good purpose. Remember to men- 
tion y r . friends Washington, Buchanan, Walker Ac in y r . letters. All love to be 
remembered. I am with all my heart 

Y r Affb Mother 

A. L. Shippen . 2 

Her affection for Tom was profound: 

"I shall think every minute an hour & every hour a day Until I see 
you,” she exclaims. "I shall long for the spring as much as the weary for 
rest or the fainting for Strength, & do you my dear make the best use of 
your time & answer my highest expectations of your improvement gratifie 
my highest wish.” 

Another time Alice writes: 

... we are now enjoying the sweets of private life & only want you to add 
to the cheerfulness of our fire-side — What are you studying my dear Son do you 
ever turn your tho’ts to the grand Object for which you came into being? remem- 
ber as far as I have an interest in you I have devoted you to serve in the Church 
I beseech you offer yourself to God & beg he will send you forth to labour in 
His Vineard where you will not meet with the reward of this world w ch . y[s] 
often a sting, a bate at best, but your reward will be certain & everlasting, 
remember the heart felt speach of Cardenal Wolsey had I said he in the 
biterness of his Soul, served my God with half the Zeal I’ve served my King, 
He wou’d not thus have left me in my old age &c. — God bless my dear Son & 
lead him in the Way everlasting — I am with much affection A the most ardent 
desire for your Eternal happiness — 

Your Mother 

A. Shippen 

Thus Alice shared her most intimate feelings with her son. Her love 
of the country is particularly expressed, for, having spent her childhood 

2 0riginal letter from Alice Shippen. From Shippen Papers. 



at Stratford, she was never satisfied with city life. One April she wrote 

Farley begins to look gay the herds are [ ?] the flocks are bleating and the 
Lambs are frisking about two little calves add to the scene and they all look 
better than ever I saw these Creatures at this time of the year notwithstanding 
the bitter cold we have had. 

Continuous financial sacrifices were made by Alice Shippen and her 
husband at home to provide the sort of training which they both coveted 
for their gifted, though somewhat irresponsible, son. Alice made several 
fruitless efforts to bring Tom to a realization of the facts: 

. .1 have sent y r . Hat & money for y r expences & wT send a man 
& horse if it was in my power but you can come with the other young 
Gentlemen of this place & all expences must be saved now. ...” 

In later years when her son and daughter were married she lavished on 
their children the same love and care. Nancy says in her journal her 
mother "spent [a] great part of the morning in my Chamber with me — 
directing & advising me about bringing up my sweet Child — I need it 
much — for sure I am a very young & inexperienced Mother.” Again she 
says of her mother: "I always find myself improved after having heard 
her talk.” 

Tom Shippen’s references to his mother in his diaries when he had 
children of his own, give a charming picture of Alice Lee and her grand- 

My mother makes us a second visit with Traveller in the chair. As usual she 
overflows with kindness to us, dines here & returns to town with a fresh horse 
in the afternoon. I sup upon a bread & custard pudding made with plums by 
my mother for the children. They are sweet little rogues. . . . My mother 
leaves in betimes: William wakes up, misses her and roars like a bull at her 
loss and at the clandestine manner in which he conceived himself to have [been] 
run away from and deserted by his best friend. Monday. My mother and old 
John arrive and at 5, J B C on horseback who was to have escorted my mother. 
She brings the long expected box of English shoes for Betsy — 3 dozen pair — 
and M rs Livingston & Miss Swift get out on their way home from M r Bache’s 
to look at and admire the inimitable shoes. Betsy is ravished, the ladies only 
pleased — sattin, queen’s silk, jean (?), Spanish leather, embroidered leather — 
Lord [ ?] what a display of shoes! — a nice supper of roasted partridges roasted 
potatoes & oysters crown the day. . . . 

From her letters it is evident that Alice’s interests were not limited to 
her family alone. She sent Tom the pamphlet published in Virginia on 
the injustice of America’s paying British debts. Yet patriot though she 
was, she had ever a tender feeling for England. "England is not entirely 
to blame!” she says at one time to her daughter. Another time she ex- 



presses herself thus: "I feel I love in my very heart the true liberty of 
America the liberty of saying & doing everything that is beautiful & 
proper.” With intelligent and affectionate interest she followed the 
career of young Tom Shippen, Jr., at Princeton. "Little” Tom used 
Latin phrases frequently in his letters to his grandmother. 

But Alice Lee was primarily wife and mother, and the mistress of a 
house that dispensed hospitality and cheer to the patriots of many col- 
onies during the darkest days of the war. 

She outlived all her family of Stratford, including her husband, her 
son, and her favorite grandson. Finances continued at low ebb. No 
longer did Alice have her own home but kept changing her places of 
habitation in Philadelphia and its environs. During her last sad years 
she was not only estranged from her daughter but also became totally 
blind. She died in her eighty-first year and was buried in the graveyard 
in Arch Street, Philadelphia, beside the body of her husband. 

According to a penciled notation in the family records, dated June 4, 
1836, Nancy Shippen is supposed to have written the inscription on her 
parents’ tombstone: 

In memory of 
Dr. William Shippen 
who departed this life 
July 11, 1808, in his 7 3rd year. 

He was Father & founder of the 
Medical School 
In this City. 

at which he presided with honor near 50 years, he was a Friend of virtue & re- 
ligious, a protector of the poor, & when he fulfilled the duties of his profession, 
in which he was very eminent, humanity and goodness ivere attending. As a 
husband, father, master, brother, friend he shone conspicuously & his affability, 
urbanity, & charity were so great that all must conspire to a tribute of love & 

Here also lies 

with six of the infant children, his wife, 

Alice Lee Shippen 
daughter of Col. Lee of V a. 

who died March 25th 181 7 , in the 85th [81 st~] year of her age 
Endowed with great talents, she was also a liberal 
friend of the poor & a 
Sincere Christian 

Hark the trumpet sounds & the tombs burst, 

Awake, arise, the Saviour of the world calls, 

He triumphs & eternity opens. 

The empire of death is at an end 

Here, O GOD are we & the children thou hast given us. 


N EVER, perhaps, were two sisters more unlike in temperament 
and in the situation and condition of their lives than Alice and 
Hannah Lee. Aside from her world of household affairs and 
the nursery where she was her own mistress, Alice was completely sub- 
ordinated to her husband: curiously dependent upon his will and de- 
cision. She bowed to custom and conventionality as if they were in 
themselves a sort of religion which could not be questioned. Hannah, 
on the other hand, was an individualist. She was independent, resolute, 
unconventional, and courageous. The strange drama and romance that 
unfolded in her life set her apart from other women of her time. They 
make her a figure of striking interest. 

Hannah Lee was the first daughter and third child of Thomas and 
Hannah Ludwell Lee. Born at Matholic in 1728, her earliest recollec- 
tions were of Stratford, where the family moved when Hannah was two 
or three years old. She passed her most impressionable years in singular- 
ly harmonious and happy surroundings and had the opportunity for 
personal companionship with her father when she was growing up as 
few of his younger children had. From his library she acquired an 
interest in books that was to last throughout her life. Most probably she 
received from her mother careful instruction in household management 
and arts and crafts. Hannah bound a series of books, one of which is 
extant, and occasionally made a piece of furniture with her own hands. 

From the emphasis then placed on religious instruction for young 
women and also from the many ecclesiastical books in the Stratford 
library, Hannah developed the profoundly religious turn of mind that 
was a characteristic of her entire life. The handmade Book of Sermons , 
given by her descendants 1 to the present-day Stratford library, is one 
of four volumes of religious discourses and commentaries, which, ac- 
cording to family tradition, Hannah compiled and bound stoutly in 
pigskin, when she was still a young girl. These volumes went with her 
from Stratford when she married Gawen Corbin of Peckatone, Gentle- 
man Justice of Westmoreland County, a member of the House of Bur- 
gesses, and later of the Council. 

Hannah’s wedding was the only one to take place at Stratford in her 
parents’ lifetime. Her marriage strengthened the relationship already 
existing between the Corbins and the Lees through Hannah’s grand- 

'Presented to Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation by Miss Mary Lee Murphy and R. Staf- 
ford Murphy, direct descendants of Hannah Lee Corbin through her daughter, Martha Corbin 

[ 199 ] 

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Excerpt of original letter from Hannah Lee Corbin to her sister, Alice. 



mother, Laetitia. Furthermore, from the point of view of Hannah’s 
parents, it seemed to promise permanent financial security for their 
daughter. Love was not always considered essential to marriage in the 
eighteenth century. 

Peckatone Plantation, Hannah’s new home, was only twenty miles 
from Stratford; but communication does not appear to have been fre- 
quent. Like Stratford and Chantilly, Peckatone was on the Potomac, 
but, unlike them, it was close beside the water. The house was one of 
the old landmarks of lower Westmoreland County, dating back to the 
earliest river settlement in that region. 

In 1664 the plantation was in the possession of Henry Corbin, one of 
the Old Standers, father of Laetitia, who married the second Richard 
Lee, and of Frances, who married Edmund Jenings, Governor of the 
Colony. The mansion with its surrounding village of outbuildings was 
built by Corbin and inherited by his grandson, Gawen Corbin. Here it 
was that Hannah Lee came as a bride, from Stratford, in 1748. 

Peckatone in 1787 is described by Hannah’s niece, Lucinda Lee, in her 
journal of a Young Lady of Virginia as a beautiful situation with gar- 
dens extending from the house to the river: "I have been takeing a very 
agreeable walk there,” she says. She refers to the peach orchard where 
she "eat a great many fine peaches.” 

The house was standing in its original grandeur until 1886, when it 
was destroyed by fire. - ' In an article from The Baltimorean written some 
forty years ago, the Rev. G. W. Beale describes this seventeenth century 
house which was Hannah Corbin’s home after she left Stratford: 

It was a spacious and massive quadrangular building, composed of . . . 
bricks with immense halls and wainscotted rooms, after the elaborate fashion 
of the better class of colonial houses of the 17th century. A wide platform, 
reached by broad flights of stone steps, in front and rear, supplied the place of 
porches, and offered a pleasing view of far extending lawn and fields on one 
side; and on the other the river gleaming through the intervening yard-trees. A 
wall extended from one corner of the main building to a brick kitchen and 
servants’ rooms; and on the opposite side, but more distant, stood the spacious 

2 Thomas Tileston Waterman says in a letter to the author, April 13, 1936: “As the ruins of 
Peckatone stood, subsequent to the fire [of 1886], they showed a building of the first importance 
in Virginia domestic architecture. It was in the style of Cleve. nearby, also now destroyed, but 
lacked the rich stone trim which distinguished the latter building. Peckatone was rectangular, 
probably about 40 by 70 feet, and surmounted by a hipped roof. The roof was pierced at the 
ends of the horizontal ridge by two great chimney stacks. The building was built of brick laid 
in Flemish bond with gauged brick flat arches, base and strong cores. The doorway was flanked 
by three windows on either side. The same proportion of openings was observed here as at 
Cleve, namely, the lower windows definitely dominated the upper ones by their great height, in 
contrast to the comparative shortness of the latter windows. It is probable that Peckatone 
in its heyday was one of the most satisfactory of all the 18th century Virginia domestic designs. 
It had breadth, simplicity, and grace.” 

View of the Stratford gardens through English beeches. 


brick stable. Extensive enclosed grounds, surrounded the mansion, and these 
were adorned with many noble shade trees, a rich green sward, and gravelled 

Hannah’s life as mistress of Peckatone comprised the same homely 
duties as her mother’s at Stratford. But apparently she had her father’s 
love of books and some of his interest in public affairs. Her literary 
judgment seems to have been valued by the men of her family. In a 
letter of January, 1765, to her cousin, Squire Lee of Lee Hall, Hannah 
shows the two sides of her life in amusing juxtaposition: 

Dear Sir 

I shall send tomorrow for the Hogs you so kindly promiss me, And as Adam 
is not engaged now you are extremely Wellcome to him for whatever time you 
want him. 

I inclose the address, it pleases me better than the others. My best wishes are 
ever with you as I am 

Dear Sir 

Your affec e cousin, & 

Hble servk 

Hannah Corbin. 

Probably Hannah did not have the leisure or opportunity for wide 
reading, but she continued to be absorbed in religious books. 

According to Bishop Meade, conditions in a number of the parishes of 
the Established Church in Virginia were then deplorable. Many of the 
clergy spent their time in card-playing, cock-fighting, rum-drinking, and 
horse-racing rather than in attending to their parish duties. The reli- 
gious life of the poorer classes of people — the tenant farmers, inden- 
tured servants and slaves — was ignored in a number of parishes. 

About the year 1760 the Reverend David Thomas came to Virginia 
from Pennsylvania. He was an apostle of a new cult, that of the pioneer 
Baptist Society. It appealed particularly to the very people the Estab- 
lished Church did not reach and also to many devout members of the 
English Church who did not approve of the lax conditions then so 
prevalent. Elder Thomas traveled through the lower counties of the 
Northern Neck "to propagate the pure principles of Christianity.” Ac- 
cording to Semple’s History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in 
Virginia, he was "a burning and shining light”; and people went many 
miles to hear him preach. "When they arrived and heard the Gospel, it 
proved a sweet savor of life. They returned home; God built them up by 
His Spirit, and in a short time they . . . offered an experience of grace 
to the church, and were baptized. . . .” In the Northern Neck, Elder 
Thomas preached to large audiences. It seems likely that Hannah Corbin 



heard him, that she joined perhaps with the very listener who cried, "O, 
that I may never forget that sweet sermon — a message from God to me 
that day!” 

Hannah left the Church of England and entered the Baptist Society. 
She refused henceforth to attend services at the Established Church and 
was accordingly presented to the Grand Jury: "May 29, 1764: Hannah 
Ludwell Corbin for not appearing at her parish Church, for six months 
past,” runs the court record on page 125 in the book of Court Orders 
of Westmoreland. 

To her sister Alice, Hannah wrote: "I am not surprised that you seem 
to have a mean Opinion of the Babtist religion 1 believe most people that 
are not of that Profession are perswaded we are either Enthusiasts or 
Hypocrites. But my dear Sister the followers of the Lamb have been 
ever esteemed so, this is our Comfort And that we know in whom we 
have believed.” 

The great revivals which were to stir all Virginia before the end of 
the eighteenth century were then commencing. "The day-star began to 
dawn.” Like Lewis Lunsford, who came after him, Elder Thomas was 
"a noble champion of religious liberty” and was held in high esteem by 
Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, both of whom he highly valued as 
"friends of Liberty.” 

The shocking persecutions heaped at first upon this brave minister 
and other early missionaries of the Baptist faith in Virginia, the starva- 
tion, beatings, imprisonment and martyrdom they suffered in a number 
of counties because of their faith — fanned to white heat the devotion 
of their followers, the masses of the people. The movement reached the 
wealthy planters as well. Mrs. Elizabeth Steptoe, later the mother-in-law 
of Philip Ludwell Lee, became a devout convert to the new religion. 
As Semple records, she was "a lady of the first rank both as to family 
and fortune,” and lived in great state near Westmoreland Courthouse. 
Another Baptist convert of wealth and importance in Westmoreland 
was Councillor Carter of Nominy Hall. He built a little church at 
Nominy for the Baptist missionaries and for a period of several years 
was one of their strongest moral and financial supporters in the North- 
ern Neck. 

However, the general reaction of the neighborhood against the Baptist 
influence is voiced by Fithian: 

Sunday, March 6. Mr. Lane the other Day informed me that the Anabaptists 
in Louden County are growing very numerous; and seem to be encreasing in 
affluence; and as he thinks quite destroying pleasure in the Country; for they 



encourage ardent Pray’r; strong and constant faith, and an intire Banishment 
of Gaming, Dancing, and Sabbath-Day Diversions. I have also before under- 
stood that they are numerous in many County’s in this Province and are Gener- 
ally accounted troublesome. Parson Gibbern ha-s preached several sermons in 
opposition to them, in which he has labour’d to convince his people that what 
they say are only whimsical Fancies or at most Religion grown to Wildness 
and Enthusiasm! . . . 

Of the married life of Gawen Corbin and Hannah Lee almost noth- 
ing is known. They had but one child, a daughter named Martha. That 
the family lived in the comfortable manner of the large planters of their 
day is evident from the Peckatone inventories. A "Coach with Harness 
for 6 Horses” — and thirteen "Bays” from v/hich to choose the six — the 
family portraits, harpsichord, books, maps, mahogany, the heavy silver 
plate (the "Ladle” alone of the "Silver Punch Bowl” weighed "3 pounds 
and an half”) engraved with the Corbin arms — all this makes an im- 
pressive list. 

But of the personal relationship of husband and wife there is no 

In December, 1759, Gawen Corbin died, leaving Hannah the mistress 
of Peckatone. Because of her practical turn of mind, the management 
of a large estate was no doubt of great interest to her. But it was also a 
trial. Hannah bitterly resented the heavy taxes laid upon her, when she 
had no hand in framing the laws. She had, it seemed, all the responsi- 
bilities of a rich man with none of his political rights. She was not, 
however, concerned for herself alone. Her defense of the legal rights 
of widows is manifested in a letter of March 14, 1778, to her sister 
Alice: "I have wrote to my Brother [Richard Henry] & I beg you will 
use your interest with him to do something for the poor desolate 
widows.” Apparently Hannah applied the old catchword of "taxation 
without representation” to the status of widows in the Colony. As 
owners of property, they had to pay taxes, but they not only had no 
voice in determining purposes for which the revenue from taxes was 
to be used, but also had no part in the election of those who were 
charged with the disbursement of such funds. It must have been a vig- 
orous letter, for her brother took the time to write a long reply: 

Chantilly, March 17, 1778. 3 

My Dear Sister, 

Distressed as my mind is and has been by a variety of attentions, I am illy able 
by letter to give you the satisfaction I could wish on the several subjects of your 
letter. Reasonable as you are and friendly to the freedom and happiness of your 
country, I should have no doubt giving you perfect content in a few hours’ 

Vista from the Great Hall through the west wing, looking toward the old Cliff Road 
to the river. 



conversation. You complain that widows are not represented, and that being 
temporary possessors of their estate ought not to be liable to the tax. The 
doctrine of representation is a large subject, and it is certain that it ought to be 
extended as far as wisdom and policy can allow; nor do I see that either of these 
forbid widows having property from voting, notwithstanding it has never been 
the practice either here or in England. Perhaps ’twas thought rather out of 
character for women to press into those tumultuous assemblages of men where 
the business of choosing representatives is conducted. And it might also have 
been considered as not so necessary, seeing that the representatives themselves, 
as their immediate constituents, must suffer the tax imposed in exact proportion 
as does all other property taxed, and that, therefore, it could not be supposed 
that taxes would be laid where the public good did not demand it. This, then, 
is the widow’s security as well as that of the never married women, who have 
lands in their own right, for both of whom I have the highest respect, and 
would at any time give my consent to establish their right of voting. I am per- 
suaded that it would not give them greater security, nor alter the mode of 
taxation you complain of ; because the tax idea does not go to the consideration 
of perpetual property, but is accomodated to the high prices given for the annual 
profits. Thus no more than l/ 2 per ct. is laid on the assessed value, although 
produce sells now 3 and 400 per cent above what it formerly did. Tobacco sold 
5 or 6 years ago for 15s and 2d- -now ’tis 50 and 55. A very considerable part 
of the property I hold is, like yours, temporary for my life only; yet I see the 
propriety of paying my proportion of the tax laid for the protection of property 
so long as that property remains in my possession and I derive use and profit 
from it. When we complained of British taxation we did so with much reason, 
and there is great difference between our case and that of the unrepresented in 
this country. The English Parliament nor their representatives would pay a 
farthing of the tax they imposed on us but quite otherwise. Their property 
would have been exonerated in exact proportion to the burthens they laid on 
ours. Oppressions, therefore, without end and taxes without reason or public 
necessity would have been our fate had we submitted to British usurpation. For 
my part I had much rather leave my children free than in possession of great 
nominal wealth, which would infallibly have been the case with all American 
possessions had our property been subject to the arbitrary taxation of a British 
Parliament. With respect to Mr. Fauntleroy, if he spoke as you say, it is a very 
good reason why he ought not to be assessor. But if he should be the law has 
wisely provided a remedy against the mistakes or the injustices of assessors 
by giving the injured party appeal to the commissioners of the tax, which com- 
missioners are annually chosen by the freeholders and housekeepers, and in the 
choice of whom you have as legal a right to vote as any other person. I believe 
there is no instance in our new government of any unnecessary placemen, and I 
know the rule is to make their salaries moderate as possible, and even these 
moderate salaries are to pay tax. But should Great Britain gain her point, where 
we have one placeman we should have a thousand and pay pounds where we pay 
pence; nor should we dare to murmur under pain of military execution. This, 

z The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Ballagh, Vol. I, pp. 392-394. 



with the other horrid concomitants of slavery, may well persuade the American 
to lose blood and pay taxes also rather than submit to them. . . . 

Hannah was probably the first woman in Virginia concerned in wom- 
en’s rights, and it is possible that her arguments influenced Richard 
Henry Lee’s favorable attitude toward equal suffrage. 

Gawen Corbin’s will was the source of many trials to Hannah. By its 
terms she would lose a large part of the estate if she married again: 

. .1 lend all my Estate both real & personal to my dear Wife during 
her Widowhood & Continuance in this Country . . . and if my Wife 
marries again or leaves this Country, then & in that Case, my will & 
desire is that my said Wife shall be deprived of the Bequest already 
made her, and in lieu thereof shall only have one third of my Estate 
real and personal. . . .” 4 

Such a restriction must have chafed so independent a person as Han- 
nah, and doubtless seemed entirely unjust to her. From existing corres- 
pondence and the notations of G. W. Beale, it would appear that Han- 
nah was always interested and active in the business of the plantation 
and undoubtedly had assisted her husband in the development of Pecka- 
tone and some of his other properties. Now she must order her future 
life — and she was only thirty-two — as Gawen Corbin directed or forfeit 
two-thirds of the estate to which she had evidently devoted much effort. 
Although she was named as executor with her brothers, Richard Henry, 
Thomas Ludwell, and Francis Lightfoot Lee, she refused to appear in 
court with them in this capacity. The court order books show a fine 
imposed upon her for not appearing, one which she apparently refused 
to pay. 

There was a further complication. One of the witnesses of Corbin’s 
will was his physician, Richard Lingan Hall. With him Hannah fell 
deeply in love. The few references to Doctor Hall by members of the 
Lee family give no due to his personality. He was invariably spoken of 
with respect, as an educated man and a social equal, the owner of a small 
estate in Richmond County. It is obvious that Richard Hall was a man 
of unquestionable integrity. 

In the course of time Hannah might well have married him; but the 
Baptist Society did not then have its own form for the solemnization of 
marriage, using instead the ritual of the Church of England, to which 
Hannah did not subscribe. The only marriage ceremony then recog- 

4 Original (mutilated) in Westmoreland County Courthouse. Contemporary copy of original 
document furnished the writer by J. Collins Lee. 


nized by Virginia law was that of the Established Church. Cases fre- 
quently occurred, however, especially during the Revolution, where the 
marriage ceremony was performed by dissenting ministers, but they 
were not valid in law until the act of 1780. 5 There must have been many 
instances where members of the early Baptist Society conformed to the 
prevailing law covering marriage requirements in order to avoid all 
questions of descents. Such records are not available to the writer. 

Where Hannah Lee Corbin was concerned, it seems that on this point 
she would not compromise. No contemporary statement clarifying her 
position survives — if any was ever made. In all legal and public docu- 
ments, even in the one referring to her first child born through her union 
with Richard Hall, she refers to herself as Hannah Corbin, widow. Was 
it — with Hannah — a question of property versus conscience? The exact 
reasons are not known. The loss of two-thirds of her husband’s estate 
would naturally be a matter of grave concern to Hannah. Dr. Hall’s 
property and practice were inadequate for their support, and ever since 
Gawen Corbin died Hannah had protested vigorously against what she 
evidently felt was the injustice of the will. 

Whatever her guiding motive, Hannah determined to dispense with 
the marriage ceremony, to live openly with Richard Hall in the house at 
Peckatone, and make no apologies for it. For two years her husband 
had been dead. She was now thirty-four and she had a spirited determi- 
nation to live her life as she saw fit, without let or hindrance from the 
body politic or religious. So bold a step could have been taken only by 
a woman whose courage and love were great. 

Since a second marriage, if performed with a Baptist ceremony, would 
probably not have been recognized officially prior to 1780, Hannah may 
have seen no reason to take any other steps during her lifetime that 
would have deprived her of most of her life interest in the estate, such 
as giving her children the name of Hall in connection with transfers of 
property made to them during her lifetime. 

The fact that some years later, when Hannah made her will, she gave 
the name Hall to her son and her younger daughter has some special sig- 
nificance. For it may prove to indicate a probable civil or Baptist cere- 
mony which may never have been recorded. 

Hannah’s relationship with Hall is not referred to by members of her 
family in any letters that survive. The devout Alice corresponded fre- 

5 See Supplementary Records : The Baptist Society in Colonial Virginia. 



quently with Hannah, and the sisters interchanged visits and were on 
friendly and affectionate terms. The scrupulous Richard Henry men- 
tions Dr. Hall in a casual and friendly manner in his letter of March 17, 
1778 — a letter he addresses to Mrs. Hannah Corbin and closes with: 

"I am, My dear Sister, 

Most sincerely and affectionately yours.” 

The situation was fully accepted by the countryside, according to the 
Westmoreland historian, G. W. Beale, who says in an article in The 
Baltimorean that during Hannah’s widowhood, Peckatone was fre- 
quented "by throngs of the most genial and enlightened society of the 
time.” He mentions "richly bound volumes of classical literature” pre- 
served in the library there, which "were inscribed with the autographs 
of prominent friends and visitors.” For his source references he cites 
"Letters and other data preserved from the period of Mrs. Hannah Cor- 
bin’s residence.” He continues: "Seldom has a woman been left at her 
husband’s decease in possession of a large estate, and the care of a child, 
with more independence of spirit and force of character than fell to the 
lot of Mrs. Hannah Corbin. She laid a vigorous hand on the affairs of 
her plantation and took other business concerns and directed them with 
practical sagacity and success.” 

For a period of nearly eighteen years — until Richard Hall’s death 
— these two lived as man and wife. To their first child, a son born in 
the year 1763, Hannah gave the name, Elisha — God is Salvation. 

On May 29, 1764, Hannah made a formal "deed of gift” to her son, 
publicly recording: 

Corbin to Corbin — To all to whom these present shall come Be it known that 
I Hannah Corbin, widow of the parish of Cople in the County of Westmore- 
land for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have 
for my Well beloved son Elisha Hall Corbin and for diver other good causes 
and considerations have given and granted and by these present do give and 
grant the negro slaves following to wit: Phil, Cyrus, Ben, Lubey, Molly, letty, 
Betty, Hannah, Nance, Alee, Lucey and Betty together with their several in- 
crease in manner as is hereafter set forth and declared that is to say to my son 
Elisha Hall Corbin and his heirs forever lawfully begotten of his body if he 
shall become to the age of twenty one years which will happen on the twenty 
sixth of March one thousand seven hundred and eighty four and if it should 
happen that I myself should depart this life before that time and that my 
said son should be living in that case I give to my said son and his heirs law- 
fully begotten of his body forever all and singular the said negroes and their 
increase from and immediately after my decease but if it should happen that 
my said son should die under age then the said negroes to be subject with their 



increase to such disposition as I shall make there of to my last Will and testa- 
ment or otherwise. 

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty ninth 
day of May one thousand seven hundred and sixty four. 


John Montgomery 

Jacob X Allison. 

At a Court continued and held for Westmoreland County the twenty ninth 
day of May 1765, This deed of Gift was proved by the Oaths of John Mont- 
gomery and Jacob Allison the witnesses therto and Ordered to be recorded. 

Teste — 

[Pg. 323] 

The second child born of Hannah’s union with Richard Hall was a 
daughter, to whom she gave the same name as the daughter of her mar- 
riage to Gawen Corbin — that of Martha . 7 

In March, 1772, Richard Hall made formal record of a deed of gift 
to his daughter: 

March 1772 

Hall to Corbin — To all to whom these Present shall come Be it known that I, 
Richard Hall of the County of Richmond in the Parish of North farnham for 
and in consideration of natural love and affection which I have for my dearly 
beloved daughter Martha Corbin youngest Daughter of Mrs. Hannah Corbin 
of the said County and for diver other good causes and considerations have given 
and granted and by these Present doth give and grant all and singular the fol- 
lowering slaves and their increase Viz-Dinah, and Kate her child, Winney, 
Charles and Harry in the following manner that is to say to my said Daughter 
and her heirs for ever from and immediately after my Decease to have and to 
hold all and singular the said slaves and their Increase unto my said Daughter 
provided she arrives to the age of twenty one years and to her heirs forever, I 
likewise give and grant and by these Present have given and granted one negro 
girl named Molly and her increase to my sd. Daughter and her heirs, from and 
immediately after she marries or arive to the age of twenty one years To have 
and to hold the said negro girl and her increase unto my said Daughter and her 
Heirs forever, provided she lives to the age of Twenty one years or is married. 

In witness hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty sixth Day of March 
one thousand seven hundred and seventy two. 

Richard Hall. 

signed and sealed and Delivered in the Presence of 

John Garner 

Hannah X. Garner 

Deed Gift — Hall to Corbin — 

7 It was an eighteenth century custom in Virginia to use the same baptismal name for chil- 
dren when there were different fathers or mothers. Frequent instances of this appear in the 
court records of Northern Neck counties. 



March 1772. 

Proved by Wit: and lodged* 

This document is in Richard Hall’s own handwriting. 

Thus did Hannah Lee Corbin and Richard Hail place in the public 
records their relations and name their children. According to Gist 
Blair, "in no State like Virginia at this period could any such open recog- 
nition of the birth of child or children been made without a public 
scandal, had such birth been illicit.” This apparently caused none, not 
even comment. Their relations were good. 

Hannah’s elder daughter, Martha, or Patty Corbin, married her kins- 
man, George Richard Turberville (grandson of the third Richard Lee 
of London, owner of Matholic) in 1769, and Peckatone passed into 
her possession and that of her husband. Sometime after the wedding, 
Hannah and Richard Hall, with their children, Elisha and Martha Hall 
Corbin, moved to Woodberry Plantation in Richmond County. It was 
here a few years later that Richard Lingan Hall died. The date is not 
recorded, but it was probably between 1778 and 1779. According to 
Richmond County tradition, he was buried near Farnham. 

During the Revolution, in the late fall of 1777, when Alice Lee Ship- 
pen came as a refugee to Stratford and Chantilly, the sisters were re- 
united after a separation of eighteen years. Shortly before Alice re- 
turned to Philadelphia in 1778, Hannah wrote her this note: 

My Dear Sister 

I have been long getting your Cotten done & I wish it may please you now, 
for People are so engaged at this time in their own families ’tis hard to perswade 
them to any thing else I could hire Cyrus here for fifty pound a year but as 
I think he is not worth it I will ask you no more than you think he deserves as 
for negroe girls they hire through the County at Twenty pound Least your 
Cake should be all out I send a few more for your Iourny I have wrote to my 
Brother & I beg you will use your interest with him to do something for the 
poor desolate widows. And pray for me my dear Sister that the grace I Daily 
sue for may be granted me for when I consider what an unprofitable servant I 
have been I am on the brink of despair & give myself intirely up. It is a dread- 
full thing to have both temporal & eternal happiness to fear the loss of — But 
I shall only grieve you & cant help it, for my heart is very low — That you are 
happy is some Comfort to your truly affectionate Sister 

H Corbin 9 

Accept my Childrens duty 

[The letter is addressed:] 

Mrs Shippen 
at Chantilly 

“Westmoreland County Original Records 1754-77. 

9 Als : Hannah Corbin to her sister, Mrs. Shippen — Courtesy Lloyd P. Shippen. 



Another of Hannah’s letters to Alice is not dated, but written later, in 
the fall of 1780. It is characteristic: 

My dear Sister 

Five of your dear Letters I have received without ever hav[i]ng an opportunity 
... to answer one of them. The Bonnet & other things came safe as did the 
money but the most valuable part the Books I never have got. You express a 
fear in your third Letter that I may have gone back after putting my hand to the 
Plough, but my Dear Sister I hope so dreadful an evil will never happen to me. 
I hope I shall never live to see the day that I dont love God, for there can be 
nothing I know befal me so horrible as to be left to myself. . . . And surely 
never poor Mortal had so much reason to sing Free Grace as your Sister, 
that My exalted Redeemer should mercifully snatch me from the Fire when 
so many Thousands infinitely better by Nature have been permitted to Sin 
on till they have sunk to endless misery. Glory be to my God for his Par- 
doning Grace His redeeming Love. ... I think the scheme of raising 
money for the Soldiers would be g[o]od if we had it in our Power to do it. 
But we are so heavily Taxed that we are unable without selling our Principal 
Estate to find ourselves common Support. I am thankful that my Lot is not 
among the high & the great, for I know that the Rich & great are not the 
favorites of Heaven because their Riches is all employed to gratify their own 
Ambition & tho they profess themselves Christias they neither obey the com- 
mands or Precepts of the Gospel But Amass & heap up Riches without knowing 
who shall gather them Blessed are the poor in Spirit &c. Such think little of 
worldly Grandeur. I am Sorry Cyrus has turned out so very bad, but I know 
him thus far that if he did not want to come back he would never behave so 
ill I dont know unless you are kind enough to get him brought home how I 
shall find any conveyance for all the traders up the Bay that I had any acquaint- 
ance with have left of the Trade except Mr Crump who I think may be in 
Partnership with Mr. John Turberville. He goes frequently to Baltimore I will 
speak to him if he goes to Philadelphia to call on you 

You will do me a very great kindness if you can by any safe opportunity send 
me the following Medicines, they are for the use of my own Family who are 
very sickly. Should they come to more money than Cyrus hire pray send them 
I will contrive the money to you 
Camphor an Ounce 
Spirit Lavender Two Ounces 
Salt Wormwood Two Ounces 
Emetic Tartar an Ounce 

Salt petre Two pounds for making the Diaphoretick Antimony. 

Two pounds of Peruvian Bark. I wish it could be got good for the French 
Bark is very bad — — — 

Two P. ds of Glauber Salts — 
a p. d of Ginger 
a p. d of Pepper 
an ounce of Mace 
an ounce of cloves 



half a p. d of Cinnamon. 

If possible a dram of Musk. 

Your poor little Niece has had convulsion fits & musk — only appeared to do 
her any service and ’tho she is well at this time I should be willing to have some 
by me — 

If my Brother Arthur is come I hope to see him notwithstanding 1 follow the 
despised Gallilean- — Blessed be God that put it in my Heart to do it, to follow 
Him thro’ good report & evil report. My Dear Sister I hope we shall meet at 
the Right Hand of Glory. 

Y r . Affectionate sister 

H Corbin 10 

In speaking of her son to Alice, Hannah writes: "Elisha delights 
much in the Religious Society but the Lord has never yet revealed Him- 
self to him.” 

According to Westmoreland County tradition, Hannah was a zealous 
worker for the Revolution. That she was "friendly to the freedom and 
happiness” of her country is stated by her brother, Richard Henry. G. 
W. Beale writes of her: "Scarcely less than her five distinguished broth- 
ers she entered into the spirit that fanned the flame of freedom for the 
colonies, and interested herself in the burning questions that preceded 
the Revolution. . . . Beneath her womanly form and garb she bore a 
singularly robust and masculine spirit.” However, no specific record of 
Hannah’s work in the American Revolution has come to light, but such 
activities would be entirely in keeping with her fearless and independ- 
ent nature and her love of justice. 

When Arthur Lee returned from France and came home to Shippen 
House, his sister Hannah was among the members of the family to give 
him warm welcome. This was also the time when, according to Mar- 
quis de Chastellux, Lafayette and Vicomte de Noailles joined the 
French diplomats in several visits and afternoon tea at Shippen House. 
Hannah was doubtless one of the grave personages he refers to as being 
"in the other room.” 

So far as it is known, this was Hannah’s only journey away from 
Virginia. Nancy Shippen’s gaiety, music, song and dance, and devotion 

10 Als : Hannah Corbin to her sister, Mrs. Shippen — Courtesy Lloyd P. Shippen. 

Cyrus, mentioned in this letter, was one of the negro slaves of Peckatone whom Gawen 
Corbin had directed in his will to be sent to the West Indies and sold and the money applied to 
the paying of his debts. But Hannah kept the slave at Peckatone instead and trained him to be 
a house servant. When Alice needed a butler she hired Cyrus from Hannah. An amusing ex- 
planation of his “misbehaviour” is given by one of the constant visitors to Shippen House, the 
French diplomat, Louis Guillaume Otto, later Comte de Mosloy. M. Otto was a suitor of Alice 
Lee’s daughter, Nancy Shippen. In one of his delightful letters to Nancy, the Frenchman de- 
scribed the old black house servant during afternoon tea in the Shippen parlour, as standing in 
the middle of the floor, half asleep ! As Hannah intimated, Cyrus wanted to return to Virginia. 



to the French could not have appealed to her aunt, whose comments — if 
she wrote any — on the people, customs and the times, have not survived. 

Hannah, like Alice and many other women of their time, became a 
religious fanatic toward the end of her life, sadly driven by fear of 
hell fire and remorse for imaginary sins. But, made of stronger stuff 
than her sister, Hannah did not fall into religious melancholia. 

She died about two years after her return to Virginia — the year fol- 
lowing the surrender at Yorktown, and was buried in the same grave 
with Richard Hall. 

In her will Hannah gave Elisha and her youngest daughter, Martha, 
"my Baptist Daughter,’’ their father’s name for the first time in the pub- 
lic records. 

It is plain where her devotion lay. The will reads: 

I Hannah Corbin of the County of Richmond, living now at Mrs. Elizabeth 
McFarlane’s in Westmoreland — being in my perfect sences as I hope this 
writing Drawn up with my own hand will testify — do make this my last will in 
manner and Form Following — first, I give my soul to my God as into the 
hands of a faithful Creator, Trusting in the all Sufficient Merits of my Glorious 
Redeemer for a Blessed Eternity, as for my Body I desire it may be Buried in a 
private manner in whatever Place the Lord shall Please to separate my Nobler 
part from it. 

And first I give of my worldly Estate to my youngest Daughter, a Baptist, 
Martha Hall, the Half of my House at Woodberry that is my lodging Chamber 
the Nursery Closet of each side the Chimney adjoining to it and Half the 
garden and Half the orchard joining that side the garden and the plantation at 
peacock while she Remains Unmarried but should she marry before my Death 
then this Bequest to be void and of no Effect. 

I give to my said Baptist Daughter twenty head of Cattle to be chose by 
herself Including in the twenty those I have already given her at my Quarter 
Called Jenningses in Westmoreland County and at my seat in farnham Rich- 
mond County called Woodberry and twenty young Ewes — The hogs, sheep, 
the Gray Mare and her Colts already given her must be Delivered to her by 
her Brother Elisha Hall Immediately upon my decease Unless she marry before 
that Event takes place and then I shall alter this part by a Codisil or a new will. 

I give to my said Baptist Daughter Martha Hall all the Furniture of my 
Chamber at Woodberry, Except the new Bed I made this Year at Mrs. McFar- 
lane’s and every thing in the Closets and nursery adjoining my Chamber Except 
the silver strainer, porringer ladle five old Tea spoons, Two large Table spoons 
and the silver stand of Cruets these I give to my son Elisha Hall forever. 

I give also to my said Baptist Daughter my Chariot and four Horses that 
Run in it with the Harness with the furniture of the Chamber and Closet for- 
ever — Except what I give to my son Elisha Hall also I give my said Baptist 
Daughter Martha Hall four stears and a Cart Hoes and plantation Tools for her 


2 17 

Negroes to work with the Negroes that were deeded to her by Doctor Hall, 
Dinah and her Daughter Kate and their Increase, Charles, Harry and Winney 
— I Mention this that she may know there was such a deed given also I give my 
said Baptist Daughter all my wearing apparel of every sort and kind forever. 

Secondly — I give my only son Elisha Hall all my land at Woodberry and at 
peacocks both these plantations are in Richmond County and all my Estate of 
Every Sort and kind at Jenningses in Westmoreland County, Except what I 
have given to his Baptist Sister. Upon condition that he gives his said Baptist 
sister five Negroes above five years old and little Winney that now waits on her, 
nor never Molests her in possession of the part of the House and Land above 
Mentioned while she remains Single if he fails to perform these two Com- 
mands and does not Deliver her all that I have Bequeathed her I give the 
whole that I Have given to him conditionally to my said Baptist Daughter for- 
ever. But if my said son performs the Conditions above mentioned then I give 
him all my Lands and Houses in Richmond County Excluding Peacocks after 
his sister’s Marriage and her part of the house, garden and orchard after her 
Marriage, Stock horses and every other kind of thing or debt due to me in 
Westmoreland and Richmond forever — 

Thirdly — I make my Daughter Martha Turberville my sole Heir to all that 
belongs to me in Fauquier and King George as Witness my hand and Seal this 
twentieth day of October 1781. 

The words while she Remains single Interlined before signing and sealing — 

Hannah Corbin. 


Robert Willess. 

Francis McThany. 

Mary Pratt. 

Codisil made October twentieth 1781 — 

I desire my son Elisha Hall may have all the profits of my whole estate the 
year I die. 

Hannah Corbin. 


Robert Willess. 

Francis McThany. 

Mary Pratt. 

At a Court held for Richmond County the 7th day of October 1782 

This Will presented in Court by George Turberville and being Proved by the 
Witnesses thereto was admitted to Record and on Motion of the said George 
Turberville Giving Security Administration, with the Will annexed is granted 

Test — 

LeRoy Peachy — C.R.C. 11 

Richmond County, Virginia Records. Will Book 7, pg. 416, Corbin Will. 



A PECULIARLY interesting picture of the family life at the Great 
House during the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods 
. emerges from the musty and faded records in Westmoreland 
Courthouse, as exact in detail as if Hogarth had sketched it. In domi- 
nant relief stands the figure of "the Divine Matilda,” who married 
her second cousin, Light-Horse Harry Lee, a few months after the sur- 
render of Cornwallis. During her brief lifetime everything at Strat- 
ford centered about her. The fugitive records all point to this. 

Her day at Stratford was the day of romance. In the love and union 
of young Harry Lee of Leesylvania and Matilda Lee of Stratford Hall, 
set against the battlefields of the Carolinas and Yorktown, historians 
may find a stirring romance of the American Revolution. 

Matilda, the first child of Philip Ludwell Lee and his wife, Elizabeth 
Steptoe, was born at Stratford about 1763. Hers was one of the oldest 
of the family names. The first Matilda in the Shropshire annals of the 
English Lees, as noted in the records of the College of Arms, was 
Matilda, daughter of Henrici de Erdington, who married Thomas de la 
Lee of Stanton in the year 1311. 

How little Matilda "was made a cristan” is described in a letter from 
Mrs. Lee’s housekeeper to Matilda’s cousin Martha Corbin, daughter of 
Gawen and Hannah Lee Corbin. This letter, frequently quoted, contains 
the earliest record of Matilda: 

To Miss Martha Corbin, Potobac. Stratford, September the 27. Dear Miss. 
I gladly embrace this opportunity of writing to you to put you in mind that 
there is such a being as my Selfe. I did not think you two would have slited 
me so, your Little cosen matilda was made a cristan the 25 of September 
the godmothers was mrs. Washington miss becy taloe miss molly Washington 
miss Nancy Lawson Stod proxse for miss nelly Lee and I for mrs. Fauquer, 
godfathers was col. Taloe mr. Robert Carter mrs. Washington Col. Frank Lee, 
the Esqr [Squire Richard Lee], mrs Washington and your ant Lee Dessers 
there love to you I am your very humble Servant, Elizabeth Jackson. 

The ceremony probably took place in the Great Hall. Perhaps the 
baby wore the white christening gown, 1 which was made and embroid- 
ered by her grandmother, Mrs. Thomas Lee, and doubtless worn in turn 
by each of Matilda’s aunts and uncles when they were christened. 
Certain of the families allied with the Lees for more than five genera- 
tions are represented in the names of Matilda’s godparents mentioned 
in this quaint letter: the Washingtons of Bridges’ Creek and Bushfield, 

1 The christening gown is still preserved. It is owned by descendants of the Lees in Baltimore. 
[ 218 ] 



the Tayloes of Mount Airy, and the Carters of Nominy Hall. It is in- 
teresting that Francis Lightfoot Lee, Matilda’s uncle Frank, who some 
twelve years after was to sign the Declaration of Independence, was 
among this group, with Rebecca, "becy” Tayloe — then a little girl — 
whom he married some years later. 

According to the eighteenth century custom for the daughters of 
Virginia planters, Matilda and her sister Flora, two years younger, were 
educated at home by governesses and special tutors. Although their 
aunts Hannah and Alice had received at Stratford the same type of 
instruction as their brothers and were well versed in Latin, in the third 
generation of Stratford daughters the emphasis was rather upon music, 
dancing, and all "the graces.” 

On July 23, 1771, when Matilda was eight, her father wrote to her 
Uncle William in London: 

Mr. Lomax says he will make Matilda play and sing finely. He is fond of 
her ear and voice he says if you will send me Santine’s work Abels’s and Cam- 
pioni’s; and Scarleti’s for the harpsichord he will always think on you when he 
is playing them; if to dear to send all at once by degrees he has a great regard 
for you yet; and Corelli’s music he wants. 

Matilda was obviously her father’s pride and joy. For so many years 
Philip Ludwell Lee had lived a bachelor at Stratford, alienated from 
his brothers and sisters. His late marriage and the birth of his first child 
when he was forty years old, must have transformed his life and all the 
Stratford scene. Matilda was also her mother’s favorite, so Light-Horse 
Harry Lee says, "and the admired of all who see her.” 2 

Matilda and Flora were inseparable from their Chantilly cousin 
"Mollie,” the daughter of their uncle Richard Henry Lee. Another 
close companion was Anne Carter of Nominy Hall, daughter of Coun- 
cillor Robert Carter. A memento of the friendship between the girls 
and of Matilda’s dignity as elder daughter of the house survives in the 
inscription written with a diamond on a pane of glass which was found 
in a bookcase door in the Great Hall at Stratford: 

Miss Anne Carter 
Miss Lee 

Miss Mollie Lee Chantilly. 

In Book 6, Inventories and Accounts of the Westmoreland Count)' 
Records, describing "The Estate of Honble Philip Ludwell Lee Esq, in 
Acct with the Administrator” many of Matilda’s personal and indi- 

2 Excerpt from original unpublished letter from Harry Lee to Mrs. Fendall. Photostat col- 
lection of Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 


vidual belongings are set forth. Here are her harpsichord, her side- 
saddle, her chest of drawers, her cap, her silk shoes and silver buckles, 
her Ribbands, locket, gloves, mitts, even her stays. Here too are her 
sett of Knitting needles, her copybook, and Rheams or quires of paper. 
Packets of lawn, Callicoe, Gause, Irish Linnen, Figured Musling and 
stript silk from Philadelphia are delivered at Stratford Landing by- 
sea-captains. Stratford’s dancing master, Mr. Christian, is listed, the 
tutresses and tutors named. Dr. Fendall is given ninety pounds of to- 
bacco "for cleaning & drawing Mis Matilda’s teeth”; John Stadler is 
paid 3,043 pounds of tobacco for teaching Miss Matilda the harpsi- 
chord. The cost of her side saddle is 1,200 pounds of tobacco. 

Echoes of the great war are sounded in frequent allusions to "raising 
a soldier” and "recruiting a soldier.” Matilda’s uncles and a number 
of her cousins, including young Captain Harry (called Legion Harry or 
Light-Horse Harry Lee), were of course in the thick of the fighting, in 
council room or on battlefield. But at Stratford all was quiet, save for 
the one engagement at the Landing near the end of the war, when Ma- 
tilda’s uncle, Richard Henry Lee, led the county militia to drive the crew 
of a British warship from Virginia soil. 

When Matilda’s father died suddenly at Stratford, February 21, 1775, 
the ownership of the estate passed by provision of Thomas Lee’s will 
"to the first male heir.” This was the second Philip Ludwell Lee, "Master 
Phil,” Matilda’s baby brother, who was born at the very moment his 
father’s coffin was being lowered into the grave. 

The management of the estate, then comprising about seven thousand 
acres, devolved upon Elizabeth Steptoe Lee, widow of Philip. For 
several years the family comprised Mrs. Lee, her three children, Ma- 
tilda, Flora, and "Master Phil,” their governesses, Miss Panthon and 
Mrs. Richards, their tutor, Mr. Williams, a large number of white in- 
dentured servants and slaves. During the fall of 1777 and the early 
winter of 1778 Matilda’s Aunt Alice Lee Shippen of Philadelphia was 
again a member of the Stratford household. 

The sole references to little Philip Ludwell Lee, the third owner of 
Stratford, appear in the letter from Henry Lee to his cousin William 
announcing the baby’s birth in February, 1775, and in the following 
two entries in the inventories: 

"To Doct. Travas for Medicines & Attendance on Master Phil, in 

"1778— To Ditto Cash for Master Phil.” 

The playground of Matilda and Flora. 


The child met a tragic death; he fell from the top of the high stone 
steps of the south entrance and was instantly killed. 3 The exact date is not 
recorded; but it must have been between 1779 and 1780, for Philip’s 
name does not appear after 1778 in any of the family or court records, 
and his mother succeeded to the ownership of the Stratford estate in 


With the death of the one male heir of Philip Ludwell Lee, momen- 
tous changes took place in connection with the ownership of the Strat- 
ford estate. Elizabeth Steptoe Lee married Philip Richard Fendall of 
Maryland, later of Alexandria, Virginia; but she apparently continued 
to live at Stratford for several years after her marriage. 

Records of the allotment of the Great House to Mrs. Fendall in 1780 
are contained in the following excerpts from the Title to Stratford com- 
piled by Lucy Browne Beale: 

February 29, 1780 — In Obedience to an ORDER OF COURT — We allot to 
Mrs. Fendall the Mansion House and offices thereunto belonging together with 
18 hundred Acres of land next adjoining thereto (and hereafter described) in 
full of her DOWER in the said Lands— The Mills are Excepted from this 
division and remain to the Estate in Common one-third to the Dower and 
two-thirds to the remaining part of the Estate. 

The Land which we annex to the Buildings and which we compute will 
compose Mrs. Fendall’s Dower are the Tract called Motts containing 450 Acres, 
the Tract purchased of Catesby Cock containing 688 Acres and part of the 
Tract called the Lower Clifts — 662 Acres. 

This Division and allotment of the Estate of the Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee, 
dec’d being returned is ordered to be recorded April 30, 17829 

The "Lands of Stratford’’ in February, 1780, included the Clifts and 
Hallows Marsh. They were divided between Elizabeth Steptoe Fendall, 
the widow of Philip Ludwell Lee, and her two daughters, Matilda and 
Flora Lee. Mrs. Fendall held a dower interest in the estate until the year 
of her death in 1789- 

Another item in the Westmoreland Records states: "On January 30, 

1781, 'Matilda Lee orphan of the Honble Philip Ludwell Lee, dec’d, 
made choice of Richard Henry Lee for her Guardian, wherupon he 
together with Richd. Lee his Security entered into Bond &c.’ ” 5 Over a 
period of several years Richard Henry Lee represented his nieces, Ma- 
tilda and Flora, in the various legal procedures in connection with the 
partition of the Stratford estate of which they were co-heiresses. 

3 Statement to writer by Mrs. Mildred Lee Francis. 

’Inventories & Accounts Book 6, p. 179: Virginia Westmoreland County Records. 
E Virginia Westmoreland County Records Court Orders, 1776-1786. Pg. 105. 


Some of the expenses of their life at Stratford are detailed in the 
following inventory: 

£337, sl3, d8 4562 V 2 Crop Tobo. 


By Board of the two Young Ladies & their Tutress the 1st Jan. 1780 to 1st 

Jany. 1781, Viz — 

For Matilda — 5,000, Flora — 1,500, Mrs. Richards — 1,800. . .8,300 lbs. of Tob. 
By Tax for a Lot in Leeds for Soldiers Cloaths etc. 

Paid Jno. Washington £ 120 0 0 

By Cash paid for 2 yds. Irish Linnen for Miss Flora 120 0 0 

By 1 pc. fine Chintz. — 1,500 lbs. & Pocket Money for Mis Ma- 
tilda 30 0 0 

By 2 V 2 yds. Figured Musling for Mis Matilda — 750 lbs. of Tob. 

1782, Jan. 1st — 

By 1 year board of Mis Matilda 5,000 lbs. of Tob. 

By 1 yr. board for Miss Flora — 1,800 lbs. Tob. 

1 yr. board for Mrs. Richards — 2,160 lbs. Tob. 

By pd. Doctor Tompson for 24 yds. Irish Linnen for Miss 
Matilda 720 lbs. Tob. 

April 8th, 1782— 

By pd. Dr. Brown for Medecines 3 4 6 

By 3 hhds. of Leeds old Tobo. to Colo. Richd. Henry Lee to 
purchase necessaries for Mis Matilda — . .3,190 lbs. Tob. 6 

Just why so many more pounds of tobacco went for "Mis Matilda’s” 
board, goods, necessaries and "Pocket money” than ever were allotted 
to Flora is not clear. 

Like most of her contemporaries, Matilda had probably become a 
"young lady” by the time she was fifteen. As the daughter of a mem- 
ber of the King’s Council and a Lee of Stratford, she had high place in 
Westmoreland. With her sister Flora, she was, according to G. W. 
Beale, one of the noted belles of the county. Notwithstanding the 
progress of the war, there continued to be at Stratford much social 
gaiety, visitors, dinners, dances. 

The balcony on the roof was used on moonlight nights for a prome- 
nade during the dances in the Great Hall. Carter Lee says: 

. . . when I was a boy, the chimneys of the house were the columns of two 
summer-houses, between which there was a balustrade; and in Col. Philip Lee’s 
time, during the evening promenade of ladies and gentlemen, a band of music 
played the while in one of the summer-houses. Col. Philip also kept a barge, 
in which the family enjoyed the music of his band upon the water. 7 

"Westmoreland County, Virginia Records Inventories & Accts. Book Sixth, page 187. 

7 Genealogical History of the Lee Family of Virginia and Maryland from A.D. 1300 to A.D. 
1866. With notes and illustrations; edited by Edward C. Mead. New York, Richardson and 
Company, 1868. 

The old beeches at Stratford. 



A note on Matilda’s appearance is given by Alice Lee’s husband, Dr. 
William Shippen, in one of his letters to his son Tom, Matilda’s cousin. 
He repeats an observation that Matilda was "very like what your 
Mamma was.’’ And Alice Lee had been described by one of her daugh- 
ter’s suitors as expressing "upon all her features that heavenly mild- 
ness which is the Characteristick of her Soul.’’ Such an enthusiastic 
comment, together with the beauty which Carter Lee says his father, 
Light-Horse Harry, ascribed to Matilda, doubtless contributed to her 
designation in the Westmoreland annals as "the Divine Matilda.’’ G. 
W. Beale records the delightful name given to Matilda in the old tales 
of the county. It was a customary eighteenth century fancy in Virginia 
and Maryland to add a touch of glamour to its celebrated women. Mary, 
the mother of Washington, was traditionally "The Rose of Epping 
Forest”; Light-Horse Harry Lee’s mother, Lucy Grymes, was "The Low- 
land Beauty,” and Ann Rousby Plater of Sotterly, "The White Rose of 

Matilda evidently had the poise, sprightly humor, and sophistication 
characteristic of many Virginia girls, accustomed as they were from 
their early teens to "social elegancies” and the admiration and court of 
men. The few original expressions of hers which have survived and 
will be quoted here not only indicate this but also show that for a girl of 
the late eighteenth century Matilda Lee was no sentimentalist, but a dis- 
tinctly modern personage, and a woman of the world despite her youth. 
She knew well how to command her suitors and her beaux and to evoke 
the profound adoration of the man she came to love — young, impetu- 
ous, and brilliant Harry Lee. 

He had known her since she was the baby of the house, seven years 
younger than he. During his visits to his father’s early home in West- 
moreland, Lee Hall, he no doubt called frequently on his other Lee rela- 
tions at Stratford and Chantilly. As he passed to the southward in the 
late fall of 1780, with his newly formed Partisan Legion, he may have 
seen Matilda, no longer a pretty little cousin, but a young lady of seven- 
teen — a reigning belle — moving in a society gay in spite of the war. 
Perhaps his subsequent valor in battle drew source and color not only 
from his passion for the cause of liberty and for military glory but also 
from his love for Matilda. He must have gone directly to see her from 
Yorktown in October, 1781, after the surrender of the British, though 
no record tells it, and arranged that their marriage should take place the 
following April. He was obliged to hasten back to the Carolinas, and it 


was early in the spring of the new year before he returned to Stratford. 

In April Legion Harry, sun-burned, wind-tanned, brown as an Indian, 
so Carter Lee says, came to Stratford to marry Matilda. Attending him 
was his military servant, George Welden, an Englishman and one of 
Colonel Harry’s faithful troopers, who worshipped the very ground his 
colonel trod. Matilda and Flora stood on the housetop balcony of the 
Great House to see their young kinsman come riding from the field of 
war. As he rode past the grove of maples, they recognized him and 
welcomed him with joy. The colonel’s orderly who came with him that 
day never left the place thereafter. In Carter Lee’s original unpublished 
manuscript he says of Welden: 

But if he aided his Colonel no more in the battles of Mars, than in those of 
Venus, to engage in which, this "Squire so gay” had attended him to Stratford, 
his efforts were very maladroit. I remember hearing my father tell an anecdote 
of him, which he got from his beautiful Matilda, after she had become his 
wife, which will prove what I say. Welden, she said, was very fond of seeking 
occasions to say a good word for his hero, & at the end of one of his eulogies 
she remarked, that his Colonel’s beauty was very much spoiled by his com- 
plexion, which was almost as brown as an Indian’s. Ah, he replied, that is 
only where the hot sun of Carolina could burn him, but if you could see under 
his clothes, you find his skin is as fair as a lily. And how, replied the lady, do 
you know that? "O, Miss, because I have seen it so often while ’nointing him 
for the itch! ! !” 

Matilda, it is plain, had the Steptoe sense of humor. She took her 
lover as he was. No doubt she tempered his boyish egotism and ex- 
travagance, his natural tendency for "showing off,’’ and laughed him 
out of any sulking to which he may have been inclined. 

The exact date of the wedding is not known. That it was in April, 
1782, is evident, however, from certain of the inventory and court order 
entries which show that Matilda was "Mis Matilda Lee” on April 8, 
1782, and "Mrs. Henry Lee” by April thirtieth. 


Like his cousins of Stratford and Chantilly, Harry Lee was born and 
bred on the Potomac. His birthplace, Freestone Point, Leesylvania Plan- 
tation, Prince William County, was some seventy miles upstream from 
Stratford Landing. When his parents, Henry and Lucy Grymes Lee, 
settled there just after their marriage in 1753, Leesylvania was a tract 
of wild land, thickly wooded, not far from Colonel John Tayloe’s sur- 
face iron mine and furnace. It was about three miles above the county 
seat, Dumfries, the tobacco shipping port and mercantile center of that 
region. The little city of Alexandria was a few miles to the north. 



Prince William was formed in 1739 from the counties of Stafford 
and King George. Many of the early settlers of Tidewater patented 
lands in this section where their sons or grandsons settled. Lees, Har- 
risons, Masons, Eskridges, Carters, Tayloes, McCartys, Fitzhughs, 
Brents, Washingtons, and Turbervilles were among the families estab- 
lished here in or before the middle of the eighteenth century. Practically 
all were related through intermarriages of several generations. 

Dumfries, like Falmouth on the Rappahannock, was founded by a 
group of prosperous Glasgow merchants. It afforded a market for the 
tobacco grown on the newly established plantations of the county, in- 
cluding Leesylvania. Numerous roads were built, and tobacco was 
brought by wagon and ox-team and by boat to Dumfries, where it was 
loaded on the sea-going vessels. 8 

The ancestral homes of the Virginia Lees were in Gloucester, Nor- 
thumberland, and Westmoreland Counties. Harry Lee’s grandfather was 
Henry, "Dragoon Harry,’’ Thomas Lee’s favorite brother, who leased 
with him the old Matholic plantation and built Lee Hall on the adjoin- 
ing plantation after his marriage to Mary Bland. Their son, the second 
Henry, was born at Lee Hall in 1729 and lived in Westmoreland until 
1753. At Stratford he was a familiar and beloved figure. He married 
Lucy Grymes of Morattico, in the neighboring county of Richmond, 
daughter of Charles Grymes and Frances Jenings. The Charles Grymes 
family was connected with the Ludwells of Green Spring, through the 
marriage of Lucy’s sister, Frances, to the third Philip Ludwell. When 
Lucy, "The Lowland Beauty,” became the wife of Henry Lee, a closer 
alliance was formed with the families Ludwell, Harrison, Jenings, and 
Grymes. Lucy was very fair. Her eyes were blue and her hair excep- 
tionally blonde, soft and light as a baby’s. 9 According to local tradition, 
she was one of the Virginia beauties adored by Washington in his early 
youth. To her legend also ascribes his schoolboy verses, and many have 
surmised that when in after years Washington so favored her son, it was 
because of his tender memories of the boy’s mother. 

Lucy’s wedding to Henry Lee took place in her sister’s home, the old 
Castle at Green Spring, December 1, 1753, where a little over thirty 
years before Thomas Lee and Hannah Ludwell had been married and 
where William Lee was to spend the last years of his life. 

8 In Landmarks of Old Prince William, an interesting account is given of this Virginia town, 
which was a part of Harry Lee’s boyhood. 

“A lock of Lucy Grymes’ beautiful hair was preserved by her descendant, Elizabeth Collins 
Lee, and is now in the possession of J. Collins Lee. 


The Prince William forest lands bordering the Potomac, where Henry 
and Lucy Lee established their home, were bequeathed to Lee by his 
father, August 21, 1747, together with another tract of thirty-five hun- 
dred acres in the adjoining county of Fairfax, and some twenty slaves. 
"Neapsico,” Point of Rocks, was the Indian name of the site of their 
home. In the Lee family it became Freestone Point, or simply Freestone, 
and its surrounding forest lands were called Leesylvania. 

It was a comparatively high, rocky point of land jutting out into the 
Potomac River, and commanding a view far down stream. The Lee 
homestead, built of red brick, was two and a half stories high with huge 
chimneys on each side. Two-story porches or porticoes were on the 
front and rear entrances. A succession of terraces descended to the 
water. By comparison with Stratford and other great houses of the 
Northern Neck and the James River region, Freestone was small and 
simple, a comfortable farm house rather than a mansion. Today only 
the foundation and chimneys remain, overgrown with weeds and vines. 

Earnest discussion of county, colony, and world events took place 
in this Leesylvania homestead. From the year Henry Lee settled in 
Prince William, he was identified with community affairs. He served 
as county lieutenant, justice of the peace, Burgess, and member of the 
Revolutionary Conventions. He was also associated for a brief space 
with the negotiation of treaties with the Indians. "Although possessing 
no dominant qualities of leadership,” Douglas Southall Freeman says, 
"he was heart and hand in the Revolutionary causes.” And Dr. Free- 
man quotes his letter to his cousin William, March 1, 1775, "We are 
determined on preserving our libertys if necessary at the Expense of our 
Blood, being resolved not to survive Slavery.” 10 Henry Lee was an ex- 
pert horseman, a connoisseur and lover of horses. "System, thrift, and 
love of horses were three characteristics of Henry Lee the second,” ob- 
serves Dr. Freeman. The stables at Leesylvania included several horses 
known in the turf annals of the time: Diamond, Roan, Gimrack, Ranter, 
Flimack, and the bay mare Famous. 

The first child of Henry and Lucy Grymes Lee was a daughter who 
died in infancy. Harry, the first of their five sons, was born January 29, 
1756. He had his mother’s blue eyes, light hair, and fair skin. The boy’s 
earliest memories must have been of river and plantation life and the 
Leesylvania stables where at an early age he had his own string of mares 
and colts. 

10 R. E. Lee, I, 162. 


The Leesylvania family eventually comprised eight children: Henry, 
Charles, Richard Bland, Theodorick, Edmund Jennings, Lucy, Mary, 
and Anne. There was never a Leesylvania line of Lees in a genealogical 
sense. Only one generation was represented here as against five genera- 
tions at Stratford, for after the deaths of Henry and Lucy their children 
lived elsewhere. Lreestone Point passed into the hands of another 
family, and Leesylvania became only a remembered name. 

Although the elder Henry Lee was not known as a scholar, he evi- 
dently made a discriminating selection of tutors and exercised a careful 
supervision of his sons’ education at home. The tutors of the period were 
invariably learned young Scotchmen who must have put their young 
charges to arduous tasks. At the early age of thirteen Harry entered the 
College of New Jersey, later Princeton University. At the same time 
arrangements were made for his brother Charles, nearly two years 
younger, to be placed in the grammar school at Princeton. 

Their father’s choice of the college for his sons’ education undoubt- 
edly came about through the influence of the Shippens of Pennsylvania, 
who were among its founders. Henry Lee’s former ward, Alice Lee, and 
her husband, Dr. William Shippen, in Philadelphia, could readily keep 
in touch with the two Lee boys. Lurthermore, the president of the col- 
lege, Dr. John Witherspoon, was one of the intimates of the Shippen 
household, and his political views coincided with those of Henry Lee. 
Accordingly, his sons’ principles would be preserved, and their develop- 
ment properly directed by so liberal and courageous a man as President 
Witherspoon. "Prom a character such as Witherspoon,” says Burton 
Hendrick, "and from studies such as prevailed at Princeton, Henry Lee 
was the kind of youngster to profit .” 11 

Apparently the Lee boys completely satisfied the exacting president. 
When he wrote to their father enclosing the bills for board and tuition, 
he said: 

"I have nothing to add to what I writ formerly of the behavior of 
your sons, and their progress in their learning, it has always been in all 
respects agreeable.” 

During the boys’ freshman year Dr. Shippen visited them at Prince- 
ton and wrote to Richard Henry Lee: 

Philad’a, 25th Aug., 1770. 

We are much disappointed in not seeing you here with your son or sons on 
your way to Dr. Witherspoon. Your Sister will be very happy when that time 
comes and prays it may be very soon. I am persuaded there is not such a school 

ll Tlie Lees of Virginia, by Burton Hendrick, p. 3 33. 


on the Continent. Your cousin Henry Lee is in College and will be one of the 
first fellows in this country. He is more than strict in his morality; he has a 
hne genius and is too diligent. Charles is in the grammar School and the Dr. 
expects much from his genius and application too. If you will be here by the 
24th of September I will escort you to the Commencement at Princeton, which 
will be on the 25th. 

A number of Lee’s classmates were to have with him future careers of 
interest in American history. Among them were James Madison, Brock- 
hoist Livingston, Philip Freneau, Philip Vickers Fithian, H. H. Brack- 
enridge, and Aaron Burr. 

Every available record offers evidence that young Lee had an eager 
and imaginative mind, that he was sensitive, emotional, and impulsive, 
that he was hungry for knowledge and indefatigable in acquiring it. 
He was a true descendant of "Richard the Scholar,” as his great-grand- 
father, the second Richard Lee, was called in the family. 

Although he studied mathematics in his senior year, there is no indi- 
cation that he was intimately interested in it or was concerned with 
practical business methods or money affairs. His chief interest lay in 
the classics. The characters and the victories of Philip of Macedon, 
Alexander, Caesar, and Hannibal filled his mind with dreams of equal- 
ling their fame: "What breast is so callous to noble feelings,” he said, 
"as not to pant to be called their rivals?” 12 Under the influence of sym- 
pathetic masters this boyish dreaming ripened into a mature appreciation 
of the style and the philosophy of the Greek and Latin poets. Through- 
out his life, Sophocles was to him meat and bread and wine. He would 
quote word for word and line for line from the poets and philosophers 
he loved. 

Years later, in letters to his wife and son, he wrote of his interest in 
the Greek and Latin poets and historians during his college days. The 
delight which they stirred in him was practically his only solace during 
his last years of exile and suffering. In an unpublished letter to his wife, 
September 3, 1813, in Lee’s fifty-seventh year, are these lines: 13 

To read Homer & Demosthenes in their own language with entire knowledge 
of their stile & meaning, is worthy of the most elevated mind & to accomplish 
the object demonstrate^] the possession of a mind both elevated & erudite. 
I am sure that the time I devoted when a youth to the greek language & to these 
authors was the best spent period of my academic life so far as I can judge 
from the past — Do enamour my son with the laudable ambition of outstripping 
his father in his favorite classical acquirement & tell him how I shall be grati- 

"Letter from Henry Lee to Carter Lee, May 3, 1817, in Lee of Virginia, p. 354. 

"Original Lee Letters and Documents : Photostat collection Robert E. Lee Memorial Foun- 
dation, Inc. 



fied if I should ever find him capable of reading over these superior Greeks to 
his aged father. 

At Princeton, too, was fostered the passion for Liberty which deter- 
mined to so great an extent the course of his later life. President Wither- 
spoon imbued Princeton students with much of his own feeling. Liberty 
was not an abstract word to them. It was an altar before which those 
early students of old Nassau knelt in worship. 

The curriculum of Harry Lee’s senior year included a course in moral 
philosophy under Doctor Witherspoon, with lectures on typesof govern- 
ment, jurisprudence, ethics, and politics. Here was the language familiar 
in the Lee family, at Stratford, Chantilly, Bellevue, Menokin, and Free- 
stone Point. It was the language that had been spoken in Jamestown 
and in Williamsburg. Harry Lee had been brought up on it, as his fathers 
had been before him. But hearing his masters extol Liberty and his 
friends discuss it hotly must have tended to intensify his own thought 
and feeling. When he returned to Virginia in 1773, he bore with him, 
besides his sheepskin and his prize for translating English into Latin, a 
passionate conviction that the liberties of mankind were rights sacred 
and inviolable. And he would live for them, and if need be, die for 

All over Virginia was the leaven of Liberty at work. In the neighbor- 
ing county of Fairfax, men met and drew up the Fairfax Resolves: 

At a Meeting of a Number of Gentlemen & Freeholders of Fairfax County 
in the Colony of Virginia on Wednesday the 2 1 ;st Day of September 1774, 
George Mason Esq r . in the Chair, the following Association was formed & 
entered into. 

In this Time of extreme Danger, with the Indian Enemy in our Country, and 
threat’ ned with the Destruction of our Civil-rights, & Liberty, and all that is 
dear to British Subjects & Freemen; We the Subscribers, taking into our serious 
Consideration the present alarming — Situation of all the British Colonies upon 
this Continent, as well as our own, being sensible of the Expediency of putting 
the Militia of this Colony upon a more respectable Footing, & hoping to excite 
others by our Example, have voluntarily freely & cordially entered into the 
following Association; which We, each of Us for ourselves respectively, 
solemnly promise, & pledge our Honours to each other, and to our Country to 

That We will form ourselves into a Company, not exceeding one hundred 
Men, by the Name of The Fairfax independent Company of Voluntiers, — 
making Choice of our own Officers; to whom, for the Sake of Good-order & 
Regularity, We will pay due [sujbmission. That We will meet at such Times 
& places in this County as our said Officers (to be chosen by a Majority of the 
Members, so soon as fifty have subscribed) shall appoint & direct, for the 


Purpose of learning & practising the military Exercise & Discipline; dress’d in 
a Regular Uniform of Blue, turn’d up with Buff, [w]ith plain yellow metal 
Butto[n]s, Buff Waist Coat & Breeches, & white Stockings; and furnished 
with a good Fire-lock & Bayonet, Sling Cartouch-Box, and Tomahawk. And 
that We will, each of us, constantly keep by us a Stock of Six pounds of 
Gunpowder, twenty pounds of Lead, and fifty Gun-flints, at the least. 

That we will use our most Endeavours, as well at the Musters of the said 
Company, as by all other Means in our Power, to make ourselves — Masters of 
the Military Exercise. And that We — will always hold ourselves in Readiness, 
in Case of Necessity, hostile Invasion, or real Danger of the Community of 
which We are Members, to defend to the utmost of our Power, the legal 
prerogatives of our Sovereign King George the third, and the jus[t] Rights 
& Privileges of our Country, our Posterity & ourselves, upon the Principles of 
the British Constitutio[n]. 

Agreed that all the Subscribers to this Association do meet on Monday the 
17 th Day of October next, at eleven o’Clock in the Fore-noon, at the Court 
House in Alexandria]. 14 

His career, young Harry Lee thought, would be in law and the "field 
of legislation.” The word "politics” had no place in his idealism. Dur- 
ing the next two years spent at home under the tutelage of his father, 
Harry Lee was prepared, "by a course of education for the profession 
of the law, and he was just about embarking for England to pursue the 
study of it under the patronage of his relative, since known as Bishop 
Porteous, when the commencement of hostilities changed his destiny .” 15 

Before the "hostilities,” however, the college lad frequently visited 
his kinspeople and old family friends in the Northern Neck, where he 
was a popular and attractive figure. Several spicy anecdotes are related 
of him, the tutor Philip Fithian, his former classmate, being one of the 
commentators. His biographers speak of the hunts, house parties, and 
balls, etc., which made gay the life of Virginia young people, in which 
he had part. 

Doubtless, too, there were quiet intervals at Leesylvania when he 
reread the classics he had come to love at Princeton, and reviewed the 
tactics and campaigns of his favorite generals. He began his military 
career in a modest way organizing and drilling the militia of Prince 
William County. 

Soon after the battle of Lexington Harry Lee entered the Continental 
army as captain of cavalry, at the age of nineteen. He received from 
Governor Patrick Henry his appointment to command one of the com- 

14 Fairfax Resolves, 1774, from photostat Library of Congress. 

“Excerpt from Letter X: Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, by H. Lee 

(1839), p. 137. 

p. 332. 

panies in the Virginia Light Dragoons under Colonel Theodorick 
Bland, his kinsman. 

Says Edmund Jennings Lee: 

. . . Lee soon distinguished himself by his thorough discipline of his troop- 
ers, as well as by the care and attention given to their horses and equipment. 
He wrote his colonel, under date of 13th of April, 1777, ”... How happy 
would I be, if it was possible for my men to be furnished with caps and boots, 
prior to my appearance at head-quarters! You know, my dear Colonel, that, 
justly, an officer’s reputation depends not only on the discipline, but appear- 
ance of his men. Could the articles mentioned be allowed my troop, their 
appearance into Morris [Morristown] would secure me from the imputation 
of carelessness as their captain, and I have vanity enough to hope would assist 
in procuring some little credit to the colonel and regiment. Pardon my solicita- 
tions on any head respecting the condition of my troop; my sole object is the 
credit of the regiment.” 

E. Jennings Lee concludes that Harry Lee’s appearance must have 
been such as he desired, "or his subsequent behaviour in active service 
must have been successful, for he appears to have won the esteem and 
affection of Washington very early in the war. It is certain that he was 
frequently employed by his commander on confidential missions and in 
hazardous expeditions.” 

The engagements in which Legion Harry had part while attached to 
the army in the north are summed up by his son Henry: 

Besides being present at other important actions, in the northern department, 
he was at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, and Springfield; 
and soon became a favourite of Gen. Washington. In the difficult and critical 
operations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, from 1777 to 1780 
inclusive, he was always placed near the enemy, entrusted with the command 

[ 233 ] 



of the outposts, with the superintendence of spies, and with that kind of service, 
which required in an eminent degree, the possession of coolness, address, and 
enterprise. During the occupation of Philadelphia by the royal forces, his 
activity and success in straitening their communications, in cutting off their 
light parties and intercepting their supplies, drew on him the particular at- 
tention of the enemy. And being attacked in consequence, his defence of the 
Spread Eagle Tavern, with only ten men, against Tarleton at the head of two 
hundred, which has been already alluded to, excited no little admiration. When 
the distress of the army for provisions reduced Gen. Washington to the neces- 
sity of foraging for supplies, as if he had occupied the country of an enemy, a 
measure which, as may be supposed, excited the most injurious discontent 
among the inhabitants, Lee, being employed on it, had the address to execute 
this painful but necessary duty, without exciting the smallest disaffection. He 
co-operated as far as cavalry could act, in Gen. Wayne’s attack on Stony Point, 
and procured the intelligence on which it was projected. Indeed, from a part 
of his correspondence with Gen. Washington which has been preserved, it 
seems not improbable that Major Lee suggested that brilliant enterprise. . . , 16 
So ingenious, so daring and skillful was Harry Lee that General 
Washington urged Congress to give him the command of an independ- 
ent corps : 

Captain Lee of the light dragoons, and the officers under his command, hav- 
ing uniformly distinguished themselves by a conduct of exemplary zeal, pru- 
dence, and bravery, I took occasion, on a late signal instance of it, to express 
the high sense I entertained of their merit, and to assure him, that it should not 
fail of being properly noticed. I was induced to give this assurance from a 
conviction, that it is the wish of Congress to give every encouragement to 
merit, and that they would cheerfully embrace so favorable an opportunity of 
manifesting this disposition. I had it in contemplation at the time, in case 
no other method more eligible could be adopted, to make an offer of a place 
in my family. I have consulted the committee of Congress upon the subject, and 
we are mutually of the opinion, that giving Captain Lee the command of two 
troops of horse on the proposed establishment, with the rank of major, to act 
as an independent corps, would be a mode of rewarding him very advantageous 
to the service. Captain Lee’s genius particularly adapts him to command of 
this nature; and it will be most agreeable to him of any station in which he 
could be placed. 

On April 7, 1778, Congress passed the following act: 

Resolved, whereas Captain Henry Lee, of the Light Dragoons, by the whole 
tenor of his conduct during the last campaign, has proved himself a brave and 
prudent officer, rendered essential service to his country, and acquired to him- 
self and the corps he commanded, distinguished honor, and it being the de- 
termination of Congress to reward merit, Resolved, that Captain Henry Lee be 
promoted to the rank of Major-Commandant; that he be empowered to aug- 

16 Excerpt from Letter X: Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, pp. 147 & 148. 



ment his present corps by enlistment of two corps of horse, to act as a separate 

"These gay, daring, high-mettled fellows, of whom an observer 
would have 'counted heroes where he counted men’ — reserved for criti- 
cal services [were] picked man by man from the army, by General Wash- 
ington’’ 17 and young Harry was the officer placed at their head. Thus 
was created the invincible Legion of the American Revolution. Lee was 
termed thereafter "Legion Harry,” "Lee of the Legion” or "Light-Horse 
Harry Lee.” His exploits stirred the youth of the land. 

Harry’s father, deeply gratified and proud of his son’s record, wrote 
on May 10, 1779, to Arthur Lee in France: "Tell y. r Sister Lee & Bro r 
William that her Aunt is well & my son Harry has often distinguished 
himself in the horse service & is now Major Commandant of an Inde- 
pendd Corps of Cavalry.” 18 

In speaking further of the organization of Light-Horse Harry’s fa- 
mous Legion, Henrv Lee, Junior, said: 

These services of Gen. Lee, . . . gained for him a reputation for talent and 
patriotism, which induced Congress in November, 1780, to promote him to a 
Lieutenant Colonelcy of dragoons, and to augment his corps by adding to 
it three companies of infantry, the officers and men composing which, he was 
authorized by Gen. Washington to select from the whole army. 

With this chosen corps, he was soon detached to join the army of Gen. 
Greene in the south, where great exertions were required to recover the ground 
lost by Gates’s defeat at Camden. On this occasion, his patriotism exalted by 
the misfortunes of his country, he expended in the purchase of horses for his 
dragoons, and in equipping his corps, a considerable part of the small fortune 
given him by his father, a contribution for which, though it proved of essential 
advantage to his country, he never received, nor even asked remuneration . 19 

Major Henry Lee adds that the prevalence of blood in the horses of 
the famous Legion made it "at once the scourge and terror of the enemy. 
Wonderful in their endurance of hunger, thirst, and fatigue; prompt to 
strike a blow where it was the least expected; and, when forced, quick 
to retreat.” 

Another comment from within the family circle came from Dr. Ship- 
pen in a letter to little Tom, then at Needwood Forest Academy in 
Maryland: "Major Lee now Col. Lee on his way to the southward with 
his Legion, a very fine corps 130 horse and 200 foot I wish you to see 
them at Frederick.” 

17 The Campaign of 1781 in The Carolina s, p. 376. 

'"Original unpublished autographed letter : Public Record Office, London. 

18 Observations on the IV ritings of Thomas Jefferson, by H. Lee, with introduction and notes 
by Charles Carter Lee. Philadelphia: J. Dobson &c. 2d ed., 1839, p. 151. 


Young Lee held the confidence and approbation of Washington as 
did no other officer of his years, excepting Lafayette. By act of Congress 
on September 24, 1779, a medal was awarded Legion Harry in recog- 
nition of his capture of Jersey City, then termed Paulus Hook, from the 

Resolved, that the thanks of Congress be given to Major Lee for the remark- 
able prudence, address and bravery displayed in the attack on the enemy’s fort 
and works at Paulus Hook, and that they approve the humanity shown in cir- 
cumstances prompting to severity, as honorable to the arms of the United 
States, and correspondent to the noble principles on which they were assumed, 
and that a gold medal, emblematic of this affair, be struck under the direction 
of the Board of Treasury, and presented to Major Lee. 

Such an inscription with noble words and phrases savoring of classic 
exploits must have gratified the lad’s heart. 

His devoted friend and companion-in-arms, Marquis de Lafayette, 
whom he loved and confided in, wrote from the Light Camp on August 
27, 1780: 

The more I have considered the situation of Paulus Hook, the more I have 
admired your enterprising spirit, and all your conduct in that business. . . . 
All motives of esteem and friendship contribute to my happiness in hearing 
that you are directed to join the light infantry, and I do assure you that I wish 
to do every thing in my power to procure you what you and your corps will 
like the best, viz. fighting and glory. 

Again, on October 29, Lafayette said: 

From my soul, my dear sir, I wish you all possible success, and I ever shall 
not only rejoice but also glory in any advantage that may add to your laurels. 
Let me often hear from you, and be sure that the moment when I will meet 
you again will be an happy one for me. Present my best compliments to the 
gentlemen officers of your legion, and tell them, as well as your soldiers, that 
I shall ever preserve the most perfect esteem and affection for them . 20 

Almost every design, stratagem, and maneuver Lee originated and put 
into execution, succeeded. His first scheme, during the British occupa- 
tion of Philadelphia, had been to fool the soldiers of King George, to 
throw dust in their eyes and make them think his handful of troopers 
was a regiment — a dozen regiments. And he did impress them with 
the size and power of the Continental army, when at that time it had 
neither. His next plan, to feed the starving men at Valley Forge by hook 
or crook, was also successful. Then came Stony Point, Paulus Hook, his 
daring exploits in the Carolinas, and finally his plan to bottle up Corn- 
wallis in Virginia. 

Few young officers in the Continental army conceived so many start- 

~°Lee's Campaign of 1781, 1824. H. Lee, Appendix A. 

Colonel Harry Lee of the Legions. 



ling plans and stratagems. Here was the amazing spectacle of a twenty- 
one-year-old boy totally without military experience, originating some 
of the most brilliant and effective projects of the American Revolution. 
That Washington and Greene encouraged the initiative of their young 
subordinate and perceived the adroitness of the plans he originated re- 
dounds to the credit of their own leadership. But certain of Lee’s brother 
officers, jealous of his position and success, took the credit for many of 
his designs and exploits. This circumstance, occurring again and again, 
plunged Lee into despondency, and put him into the false position of a 
credit-seeker, when he asked only that his merit be justly recognized and 
that deserts due him should not be given others. 

A full report of Lee’s services in the Revolution has never been com- 
piled. As the evidence is studied and weighed by psychologists and 
historians, the place won by Light-Horse Harry Lee in the war of the 
American Revolution takes on greater importance from year to year. 

Legion Harry’s true nature and temperament are perhaps best shown 
in this letter, written at Camp New Garden, March 20, 1781, addressed 
"to the Commanding Officers of the Militia of Roan, Surry, and Meck- 
lenburgh Counties, North Carolina: 

My friends and countrymen. 

Being near your county, and well knowing the patriotism and gallantry 
which you have uniformly displayed in defence of your country, I conceive it 
my duty to inform you of the present situation of our affairs. 

You have already heard of the general action between the two armies on the 
15th instant. It is unnecessary to acquaint you with the effects of that engage- 
ment, as the retreat of Lord Cornwallis, and the pursuit of General Greene, 
best discover the real loss on each side. But a very small part of the regular 
troops engaged; some new raised troops behaved dastardly, which confused the 
regiments nearest them, and rendered it prudent to retire and postpone the 
decision to another day. 

The enemy’s small army is reduced to a very insignificant body, their most 
experienced general and officers, and their bravest soldiers are killed and 
wounded. Cornwallis has left a number behind him at New Garden Meeting 
House, and is running with his broken army to some place of safety. His 
deluded friends, our unhappy brethren called tories, experience the imbecility 
of his pretences to protect them, and are prudently throwing themselves on 
the mercy of their countrymen. General Greene is advancing with his army in 
health and spirits to overtake the foe, determined to fight them as soon as he 
can reach them. The French fleet are victorious in Europe, in the West Indies 
and in America; and General Washington keeps Sir Henry Clinton close in 
New York. General Arnold with his army in Virginia is besieged at Ports- 
mouth, and on the point of surrendering to the Marquis Lafayette. Every opera- 
tion in every part of the world promises immediate and decisive success to 



America. Come then my friends, fly to your arms, and by your efforts for a few 
days delay the enemy’s retreat till your countrymen can get up with them. 
Recollect our glorious exertion the last campaign, and let it not be said that 
you shrink from danger at this interesting crisis. Before this can reach you, 
you will know whether the enemy direct their flight by Cross creek or through 
your county. In either case it is my hope and expectation that you will be 
near them, and be assured take what route they may, you will find horse and 
foot from General Greene’s army, convenient for your junction. This letter is 
meant for the information of all our southern friends, but especially for such 
of our brave countrymen in the counties of Roan, Surry, and Mecklenburgh, as 
may not be in actual service under General Sumpter. Wishing you every hap- 
piness public and private, I am, 

Your friend and soldier, 

Henry Lee, Jun. 21 

Such a letter, brief, concise, and friendly, must have stirred the friend- 
ship and admiration of the men to whom it was addressed, friendship 
that would last long after their colonel’s project for the capture of 
Cornwallis had been accomplished and he had begun his journey back 
to Stratford and Matilda. 

^Appendix XXX, Lee’s Campaign of 1781. 



I N the spring of 1782 the Great House with its village of outbuild- 
ings, its gardens, stables, shops, mills, farms and fisheries, passed 
from the ownership of Matilda and Flora to that of Matilda and 
Light-Horse Harry Lee. Matilda’s mother moved to her new home near 
Alexandria and Flora went with her. 

For Colonel Harry, as he was invariably called in the family, the life 
of a country gentleman and a farmer was now in prospect. The various 
acts of personal injustice he suffered in the army, which had so disil- 
lusioned and embittered him, apparently receded into the background 
of his thoughts as time went on and his health and happiness were 
restored. After all, if he had but a scant supply of laurels to bring to 
Matilda, what of it? 

Matilda was a young woman of good sense. And she had a very 
real devotion for her husband, "my gentleman,” she called him. She 
would scarcely have set store by any outward symbols of his valor, the 
calibre of which she must have known for herself. It was privilege 
enough, she might have argued, for her lover to have had a part equally 
with other patriot soldiers in defending his native land and in establish- 
ing the new nation. 

Colonel Harry was not well fitted for the vocation that he now 
elected. In the handling of details of plantation business he had little 
training beyond a single year’s management of Leesylvania during his 
father’s absence. Any tendency that he might have had toward orderly 
and practical business habits would have been completely uprooted by 
the chaotic conditions of his life in the succeeding years of the Revolu- 
tionary War. 

In August, 1782, took place a partition of the properties of the Strat- 
ford estate and other inherited lands between the widow of Philip 
Ludwell Lee, her daughter Flora, and Matilda and Harry Lee. In the 
negotiations to acquire Matilda’s share free and clear, Harry and Ma- 
tilda gave bond of twenty thousand pounds to the executors of the 

LEE TO LEE: Know all men by these presant that we Henry Lee, Junior of 
Westmoreland County in the State of Virginia and Matilda Lee wife of the 
said Henry Lee, Junior are held and firmly bound unto Richard Henry Lee, 
Francis Lightfoot Lee and Philip Richard Fendall and Elizabeth his wife, 
Administrators of Philip Ludwell Lee, Esq. late of the County aforesaid de- 
ceased, in the full and Just sum of Twenty thousand pounds, Specie, to be 
paid to the said Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee and Philip Richard 

[ 240 ] 



Fendall and Elizabeth his wife, their certain Attorney, Executors, Administra- 
tors or Assigns, To the which payment well and truly to be made and done, we 
bind ourselves our heirs, Executors and Administrators in and for the whole 
Jointly and Severally firmly by these present, Sealed with our Seal and dated 
this eighteenth day of May, one thousand Seven hundred and Eighty two — 

The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas the said Henry 
Lee, Junior hath Intermarried with the said Matilda Lee and both of them are 
desirous that partition be presently made of the estate of the said Philip Lud- 
weli Lee, between his children and whereas there may be many debts, dues and 
demands upon and owing from the said Estate, by reason of which damage 
and injury may Accrue to the said Richd. Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee 
and Philip Richard Fendall and Elizabeth his wife Administrators as aforesaid 
if they should deliver up the said Matilda’s Moeity of the said Estate before 
such debts, dues & demand be finally settled, adjusted and paid. Now if the 
said Henry Lee, Junior and Matilda his wife, do and shall well and truly 
satisfy and pay or cause to be satisfied and paid, such full and just proportion 
of all such debts dues and demands as may or shall be due from them according 
to the part of the Estate that shall be delivered up by the Administrators afore- 
said. And also shall in every respect and respects whatsoever will and truly 
save harmless and indemnify the said administrators each and every of them 
from or for any injury that might accrue or fall upon them the said Adminis- 
trators or any of them by or for so delivering the said Matilda’s proportion of 
her father’s Estate to her and her husband aforesaid, then the above obligation 
to be void, or else to stand remain and be full force and Virtue in Law. 

Signed Sealed & delivered 

in presence of — 

Richd. Parker. Henry Lee, Jun. 

Jno. Legg. Mda. Lee. 

At a Court held for Westmoreland County the 27th day of August 1782 
This Bond was proved by the oath of Richard Parker a Witness thereto and 
ordered to be Recorded. R. Bernard, C. W. C. 1 

There were hundreds of tillable acres in the uplands of Stratford, and 
wide, fertile plains extended on the plateau south and east of the Great 
House. Portions of these lands, it appears, Colonel Harry leased to 
"small farmers.” From early times there had evidently been tenants on 
Stratford properties, but not to the extent they appear during the 
thirty-six years Light-Horse Harry Lee was master there. Whether any 
cash rent was ever charged or collected for the various Stratford farms 
is a question. 

A characteristic act of Colonel Harry was the appointment some years 
later of his namesake, Henry Welden, to be overseer of Stratford. 
Henry Welden could neither read nor write. He was born and brought 
up at Stratford, was evidently entirely without training or equipment of 

‘Westmoreland County, Virginia, Records, Inventories & Accts. Book Sixth, page 198. 



any sort to manage a plantation; but he was the son of Light-Horse 
Harry’s former orderly who had accompanied his colonel from the Caro- 
linas to Stratford when he came to marry Matilda. Nothing henceforth 
was too good for Welden and Welden’s children. "The old Earl,” as 
the children called him, was given a house at Stratford and a living for 
the rest of his days. In the manuscript" written by Charles Carter Lee 
much light is thrown upon this period of Stratford’s history; Carter Lee 
tells the story in his own words: 

How well I remember him when he had become old George Welden; with 
his hale complexion & his long grey locks, & how impressed I used to be with 
his affection for my father, whose hand, after a return from a long absence, I 
once saw him kiss. He was a great talker & not more averse than Nestor to 
enlarge on the achievements of his youth. He used to say that he was never 
of any great service to his Colonel until he was ’specially opposed to Lord 
Cornwallis; but then he helped him powerfully. For the Col: knew nothing 
about Lords, but he (being an Englishman) knew all about them in the old 
country; & could put the Col: up to their ways, & did it accordingly. . . . 

. . . He became one of the happy tenantry of Stratford, among whom (I 
think) he married, & where I knew him in my boy hood — 

"begirt with growing infancy Daughters & sons of beauty.” 

He was so happy as to be a great admirer of the beauty of his wife "bloused 
with health” as were her cheeks, which he was fond of comparing to full 
blown roses, but which a gay young visiter at Stratford used to attempt to dark 
his praises of by begging to substitute hollyhocks for roses,- — an emendment, 
which I think, was generally concurred in, but which the fond husband insisted 
with that "faith whose martyrs, are” perhaps more often of ridicule, than of 
"the broken heart.” The aspirations to learning of one of his sons, (Henry, 
probably named after my father) were the humblest I ever heard of. He 
aspired to be an overseer, & being asked by the pu[r]poses to employ him as 
such if he could write — most animately replied, "No! but I can keep a tally 
with a pen.” The ingenuousness of manner & the fun of the matter, so allevi- 
ated the objection arising from his want of every clerical accomplishment, that 
he obtained the coveted office. I know his employer was familiar with Mar- 
mion, & perhaps thought the old Dou[g] lass’s objections to that hero were 
not so rediculous as they are generally accounted. 

"I never liked his courtly parts 
I never liked his clerkly arts. 

Thanks to St: Bothan! son of mine 
Save Jarl, could never write a line.” 

The tenantry of Stratford would never have incurred the displeasure of the 
old Earl by any such accomplishments. . . . 

The picture plainly shows the friendly, "easy-going,” unbusinesslike, 
and more or less sentimental aspect of the management of Stratford 

’Original Lee document. Photostat collection. Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 



Plantation in this regime of the fifth generation of the Lees. It was, 
however, a welcome contrast to the severe and dictatorial rule of Ma- 
tilda’s father prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Steptoe. 

Stratford was too isolated to permit a frequent interchange of social 
visits such as prevailed among the families living in the great houses on 
James River. The families McCarty, of Pope’s Creek Plantation, the 
Washingtons, of Bridges’ Creek and Bushfield, and the Carters, Fitz- 
hughs, and Turners seem to have been among the neighbors most fre- 
quently associated with the Lees in this as in the subsequent generations. 
Most of Stratford’s visitors during the first years when Colonel Harry 
was master appear to have been his old soldiers of the Legion. Many of 
them, destitute after the war, sought out their beloved colonel at Strat- 
ford. They had no other place to go for succor; they had no other man 
to whom they could turn who would make their cause his own. 

Thomas Boyd relates how Lee procured for the Virginians of his 
Legion an equal share of bounties which were distributed by the state 
for men of the Virginia line. In his Light Horse Harry Lee he also de- 
scribes a damage suit wrongfully instituted in the courts against one of 
the colonel’s legionaries and tells how Lee adjusted the matter by tak- 
ing it directly to General Washington. 

Even had Colonel Harry been seriously disposed to turn farmer, con- 
ditions and people conspired to claim his time for other interests than 
his own. Naturally concerned in political affairs, he rode long distances 
to attend meetings. He must have been a picturesque figure in West- 
moreland as he cantered over the countryside on his thoroughbred 
mount followed by his retinue of dogs. Despite Matilda’s tempering 
hand there was, no doubt, at this period of his life a wildness in Harry 
Lee’s nature, a spirit of bravado, quick temper, and unrestrained speech 
learned in camp and battlefield. Color was given this tradition and 
serious harm done to his reputation by absurd tales. One of these 
anecdotes appeared in the Maryland Gazette, July 8, 1785. It is repro- 
duced here because it evidently had wide circulation and tended to 
form and crystallize an adverse public opinion of what was merely a 
superficial, passing phase in any young soldier’s career. It relates to one 
of Lee’s political jaunts to Williamsburg: 

. . . Another time his Excellency [Lee] got a severe drubbing, which seemed 
to be intended as a mark of justice for his impiety and blasphemy. He was once 
riding to Williamsburgh, to attend the Assembly, and as usual, was accom- 
panied by a number of dogs, among which was one whom he called by the 
name of our Saviour. A few miles from Williamsburgh, he fell in with a man. 



who eyed this dog with particular attention, and at last demanded if he 
would sell him. "Sell my dog! no,” replied Lee, "what do you mean by that?” 
— The man, however, taking Lee, from his dress, to be no way his superior, 
continued to press him, and offered so large a sum, as to raise the General’s 
curiosity to ask the man for what purpose he was so anxious for the dog, 
"Why,” replied he, "I want him to fight the devil” — . Lee, who from the name 
he had given the dog supposed the fellow meant to insult him, threatened to 
cain him. The man returned the compliment by a torrent of abuse; and Lee 
was irritated to strike him; which the fellow returned with such interest, that 
the General, on his arrival at Williamsburgh, was confined some days in his 
room by a variety of colours which arose round his eyes, and which, though 
esteemed ornaments by the Indians, are considered in a different light by us. 
On enquiry, the man proved to be the master of a puppet shew, and having 
lost the dog, which used to attack his infernal majesty, had endeavoured to 
procure Lee’s for that use; having no idea that the animal’s name was so 
apropos . 3 

This story doubtless reached Colonel Harry’s kinswoman, Alice Lee 
Shippen in Philadelphia, for she wrote her son, who at this time was 
studying law at the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg: 
"My dear Tommy I have just heard some anecdotes of Gen. Lee that 
make highly improper you should visit or be seen with him. His pro- 
fanity has always been an objection & his imprudence makes it alto- 
gether wrong for any person who wou’d be tho’t a whig to be intimate 
or of choice with him. . . .” 4 

Harry and Matilda Lee’s first child was a son, born late in 1784. He 
was named for General Nathanael Greene, under whom his father had 
served in the Carolinas and Georgia. Within the next three years Ma- 
tilda bore two other children, Philip Ludwell and Lucy Grymes, who 
was named for Lee’s mother. Nathanael Greene Lee died in early in- 

More and more Colonel Harry became immersed in politics. On 
November 15, 1785, by joint ballot of both houses, he was elected a 
delegate to serve in Congress, "from the time of his appointment until 
the first Monday in November, 1786.” The signature of Governor 
Patrick Henry was on this document as it had been on Lee’s initial ap- 
pointment as captain of one of the cavalry troops in Theodorick Bland’s 
regiment in the Continental Army nine years before. 

As Matilda was just recovering from Lucy’s birth, Colonel Harry 
went alone to New York. At length he found a residence that would 

3 Biographical Anecdotes of the late General Lee. Department of Records and Research, 
Williamsburg Holding Corporation. 

4 Shippen Papers. 

Across the broad expanse of fragrant gardens was the family burial ground of the Strat- 
ford Lees. 


be comfortable for "his Mrs. Lee.” During April, 1786, Matilda left 
Stratford with the children and several servants for New York. It was 
a long and arduous journey for the fragile young mother and the chil- 
dren. When they reached Alexandria and stopped for a visit with 
Matilda’s mother, it was decided to leave the baby with her. Matilda 
then proceeded on the tedious drive north. Colonel Harry met his 
family at Chester, and at once placed Matilda under Dr. Shippen’s care, 
for their next stop was at Shippen House in Philadelphia. 

The affectionate relations between Colonel Harry and his wife’s 
mother are apparent from this unpublished letter he wrote her from 
Philadelphia, May 6, 1786, which contains a postscript in Matilda’s 

The joy of my present moments is heightened by the conviction I feel of 
the pleasure your maternal tenderness will experience in knowing that your 
dear Matilda & Grandson are safe with me. I met them at Chester on Thursday 
last very well, but fatigued. They arrived here on friday. Phil was inoculated 
the same evening & all of the servants — We set out on tuesday for New York, 
where we shall be on the following thursday. Doctor Shippen has us under his 
care & promises safety to his patients. My next letter I trust will inform of 
the recovery of your favorite, who is universally admired — our love to Flora 
God bless you 

Yours affectionately 

H. Lee Jun r 
May 6 th 86 

I opened this to see if my gentleman had been explicit. Kiss my dear Lucy 
for me. Matilda. 

Addressed: M rs Fendall. 5 

This postscript is the only fragment of Matilda’s original handwriting 
that has ever been found, with the exception of the names written on the 
pane of glass at Stratford. 

The Lees lived for some time in New York. During the summer they 
made several trips to the springs in the upper part of the state for 
Matilda’s benefit. Colonel Harry wrote from Albany to one of their 
Westmoreland friends, John James Maund, July 23, of this year: 
dear sir 

I met here yesterday y. r let. r of the 5 th on our return from Balston springs 
the waters whereof are in high repute & were prescribed by M rs Lee s physician 
as indispensible to her. Much time & money have been appropriated to this 
trip which has not answered all our hopes, tho M r s L is better & if her condi- 
tion will permit, we shall reach home early in Sep. tr , soon after which my long 

r ’Original unpublished letter to Mrs. Fendall from Henry Lee, Junior, Philadelphia, May 6, 
1786. Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 



afflicted wife will reach the point which will decide her fate & if she shall 
acquire strength to go well thro her delivery, I may be rewarded for the ex- 
ertions so constantly given for 8 months toward her restoration. At any other 
period such a sickness would have been more tolerable but in my present 
condition the calamity is great, [for] it stops my personal attention to the 
business which so necessarily engages me. Lucy & my children are well & have 
generally been so. G 

There were frequent visits to Philadelphia, where the Lees stayed at 
Shippen House. Dr. Shippen’s utmost skill was called upon to restore 
Matilda. By this time family cares, anxieties, and responsibilities had 
no doubt quieted Colonel Harry’s exuberant spirits to such a degree 
that he no longer shocked his pious cousin, Mrs. Alice Lee Shippen, by 
"his profanity and imprudence.” He even appears to have favorably 
impressed these hospitable kinspeople, for he is frequently mentioned 
in the Shippen letters and journals. One of these references is in a 
letter written November 7, 1787, by Dr. Shippen to Tom, then in Lon- 

Col. Harry & M r s Lee have spent this evening with us in a very friendly 
sociable manner, Oysters & Eggs our Repast — M r & M rs Bingham called in the 
evening & sat with us about an hour, M rs Lee had never seen her, was much 
delighted with her indeed & M rs B. thought M rs Lee very like what your 
Mamma was — your Letters pleased them much, The Col speaks highly of 
your abilities & enviable prospects — They set off tomorrow for Virginia — 
Nancy behaved like a Virginian like her Mother. 

Good night my d r Boy 


In April, 1786, Harry Lee gives an interesting and self-revealing 
analysis of national and world conditions in a letter to his brother 
Richard Bland Lee: 

. . . our prospects in Europe are unpromising and will be more so in pro- 
portion to our insignificance, the negotiations with the Barbary powers will I 
fear be ineffectual. G Britain knows our weakness & will not be operated on 
by fear, the only passion in her mind which can ever be used to our advantage 
— The court of France is engaged in commercial projects all pointing to her 
specially, and will terminate in aggrandizement and consequence to that pow- 
erful nation — Spain initiates her plans, and aids her views — the emperor & 
the King of prussia are quarrelling about Bavaria — the United provinces are 
sill [still] out of humour with their Statholder, who is patronized by his cousin 
of prussia. 

Could we place ourselves on a respectable footing, we might negotiate 
among these discordant powers to advantage, but we are truely contemptible, 
and therefore not regarded. 7 

“Original unpublished letter, photostat collection, Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 
’Collection of original Lee letters and documents of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 



mm m 

fummons with mingled emotions of indignation 
at the unmerited iil-trea'ment of his country, and 
of a determination once more to rifk his all in 
her defence. 

Tut annunciation of thcfe feelings, in his 
affecting letter to the Prefident, accepting the 
command of the army, concludes his official 

First in war, Ftrfl in peace, and firft in the 
hearts of his countrymen, he was fecond to none 
in the humble and endearing feenes of private 
life : Pious, juft, humane, temperate, and ftneere ; 
uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example 
was as edifying to all around him as were the 
die ft s of that example lading. 

To his equals he was condefcending ; to his 
inferiors kind ; and to the dear object of his affec- 
tions exemplariiy tender : Correct throughout, 
vice fhuddered in his prefence, and virtue always 
felt his fodering hand ; the purity of his private 
character gave effulgence to his public virtues. 

U is lad feene comported w ith the whole tenor 
of his life : Although in extreme pain, not a figh, 
not a groan efcaped .him ; and with undidurbed 
ferenity heclofed his well fpent life. Such was the 
man America has lod ! Such was the man for 
whom our nation mourns ! 

Methinks I fee his auguft image, and hear, 
falling from his venerable lips, thcfe deep finking 

“ CEASF., Sons of America, lamenting our 
reparation : Go on, and confirm by your v.ifdotn 
the fruits of our joint councils, joint efforts, and 
common dangers. Reverence religion ; diffufe 
knowledge throughout your land j patronize the 
arts and fcicnces ; let Liberty and Order be 
infeparable companions ; control party fpirit, the 
bane of free government *, obferve good faith to, 
and cultivate peace with all nations ; fhut up 
every avenue to foreign intluence ; contract rather 
than extend national connexion ; rely on your- 
felves only-rBc American in thought and deed. 
Thus will you give immortality to that union, 
which was the condant object of my terreltrial 
labours : Thus will you preferve undidurbed to 
the iated podcritv, the felicity of a people to me 
mod dear ; and thus will you fupply (if my hap- 
pinefs is now aught to you) the only vacancy in 
the round of pure blifs high Heaven bellows. *’ 


Closing paragraph of Henry Lee's oration on the death of General Washington. 

Another excerpt from this unpublished letter shows that bitter ex- 
perience had given Lee keen eyesight: 

. . . Do you persevere in your withdrawal] from the assembly, who will 
succeed you. of what complexion is the body of the people with respect to 
their public men & public affairs. Do they impute the evils which menace their 
natural life to their leaders, or their own vice and prodigality — Do they yet see 
the necessity of a government adequate to its object, or still prefer the name to 

Are they not apprised by this time, that one source of their complicated 
misfortunes is the invitation which the state and nature of their debts offer to 
all orders to relinquish every profession and place their attention to jobbings 
& paper securitys — agriculture commerce and every other proper ground to 
render a people wealthy and respectable yields to the allurements of this 
vice — they must stop it, or they are undone. It is worse than the plague to the 

[ 248 ] 



body, and more pestilential if possible, for it now comprehends both good & 
bad. It is high time that our people be coerced to habits of industry, otherwise 
our produce will be of no consequence — for the nations of Europe are all 
bending their application to the culture of the land, and our only chance for 
existence, is to be able to undersell, & to make up in quantity what we loose in 

One of the congressional committees on which the new delegate 
from Virginia sat was that appointed to examine the progress made in 
the surveying and disposing of lands in the western territory and to 
consider alterations and amendments for the safety and development 
of this territory. Thus to Harry Lee, among others, was entrusted the 
continuation of a national enterprise in which members of his family 
had been engaged since the days of the Lancaster Treaty. 

Colonel Harry urged emphatically, as did President Lee, the protec- 
tion of the frontiers from Indian attack. He initiated the plan for the 
organization of "the Indian Department.” The minutes of the com- 
mittee include the motion in Lee’s handwriting presented June 30, 1786 : s 

That the executive of the state of Virginia be informed, that Congress, 
desirous to give the most ample protection in their power to the citizens of the 
United States, have directed their commandant on the Ohio, to detach two 
companies of infantry to the rapids of the Ohio, and request that the executive 
will give orders to the militia of that district to hold themselves in readiness 
to unite with the federal troops, in such operations as the Officer commanding 
the troops of the United States may judge necessary, for the protection of the 
frontiers, who is hereby authorized and directed, in case of necessity, to apply 
for the same to the Amount not exceeding one thousand; And that Congress 
now have under their deliberation the organization of the Indian department, 
for the purpose of extending to the frontiers regular and certain security 
against future designs of the Indians. 

Another motion in Lee’s handwriting, dated June 28, 1786, inaugu- 
rated at this Congress the plan for the formal observance of the anni- 
versary of the Declaration of Independence; 

Resolved, That tuesday next, being the Anniversary of the declaration of 
Independence, there shall be a public Levee at the President’s house, from the 
hours of twelve to two, to receive the ordinary congratulations, and that the 
Secretary of Congress take Order for due communication thereof. 

Lee set in motion a national memorial to General Nathanael Greene. 
Throughout his entire life George Washington and Nathanael Greene 
were his great heroes; and his admiration for their personal qualities and 
their military skill was boundless. Worship of these two men was al- 
most a religion with him. How indebted to them the nation was none 

8 Papers, No. 30, folio 117, Library of Congress. Examined for the writer by K. L. Trever. 



knew better than he. His purpose to have the nation honor General 
Greene as he did took concrete form at this Congress of 1786. 

In Lee’s handwriting is the following motion introduced by him in 
committee: 9 

Resolvd, That a monument be Erected to the Memory of N. Greene esqr. at 
the seat of the federal government with the following inscription: 

Sacred to the memory of N. Greene, esqr., who departed this life on the 
19 of June 86, aged — , late Major General in the service of the U. S. and 
commander of their army in the Sou. department. 

"Guilford — Cambden — Eutaw 
"judgement Firmness Glory 

The Congress of the U. S. in honor of his patriotism valor and ability have 
erected this monument.” 

Reported from committee July 12, the motion was passed August 12 
in the following form: 

Report of Committee (Lee chairman) adopted in following resolution: "Re- 
solved that a monument be erected to the Memory of Nathan[a]el Greene, 
esquire at the Seat of the federal government, with the following inscription: 

Sacred to the Memory of Nathan[a]el Greene, Esq r - a native of the State 
of Rhode Island, who died on the 19th of June, 1786, late Major general in 
the service of the United States, and commander of their army in the Southern 

The United States in Congress Assembled, in honor of his patriotism, valour, 
and ability, have erected this Monument. 

The monument stands today at Stanton Square in Washington. 

The policies to be adopted by the government in reference to the 
western country and the free navigation of the Mississippi aroused in- 
cessant debate. Lee’s real position in reference to these questions is 
given in an unpublished letter dated October 28, 1786, New York, to 
an unknown correspondent, probably Madison: 

My conduct in the affair you mention has been uniformly in conformity with 
my colleague, because we were under instructions & because any opposition 
would have been idle, therefore as far as can be known, I have been with M r - 
Henry in this matter. 

Had I not been fettered with instructions, I certainly between you & me, 
should have taken a different part. These instructions ought to be repealed — I 
am so convicted of the policy of the proposed treaty that I am clearly of opinion 
on a fair statement of facts two thirds of your house would coincide with me 
in sentiment, at the same time I well know that such communications will be 
made & insinuations whispered as to forbid any attempt to espouse the true 
interest of our country on this subject — not only the interest of the cisalpine 
Virginia and indeed their existence as a people is involved in the politics of this 
question but the true interest of the transalpine country also. For it is un- 

'Papers No. 19, II, folio 513. 



questionably true that the western settlements prosperity depends & ought to 
depend on the prosperity of the atlantic country & grow in proportion thereto 
— To push forward the infant at the expence of the parent is wrong — 

A few weeks later, at the time of Shays’s rebellion, Harry Lee wrote 
his brother Richard Bland: 

11 Nov. 86 N[ew] York 

Now for politics — the East is in tumult, the dreadful appeal is too probable 
— preparations are making by the Insurgents with assiduity — measures are also 
taken by government lately with decision & firmness — It is suggested that 
Vermont & British America soften the madness of the malcontents by their 
councils and promises — Whether we shall conquer this effort or whether it 
will conquer us, depends on the pecuniary aid of the tranquil states — It is cer- 
tain if Massachusetts yeilds, that the victors will extend their conquest, & very 
destructive consequences will pervade from that victory the whole empire- 
be [ ?] mob government for a time, which will terminate in despotism among 
ourselves or from abroad — 

I rejoice in your decided overthrow of paper — To be sure the expedient of 
nominal money is getting so [ ?] ridiculous that common sense begins to abhor 
it & therefore the vote of the delegates of Virginia is not surprizing — still it is 
grateful & will be I hope nationally useful. 

In a let. r of the date of your last let. r Madison tells me that my congressional 
conduct relative to the Mississippi navigation, or rather the proposed treaty 
with Spain is carped at. I cannot brook the dishonor, which he suggests may 
befall, me, altho my intended & wished for return home invites the disgrace. 

A community ought to be tender of the reputation of her servants, I expected 
delicacy as well as justice from my country, or I never would have risked a 
Reputation dearer to me, than life on the precarious tenure of a democratic 
assembly. If I am deceivd I must submit, but my submission will be bottomed 
on necessity, not on respect to her caprices — nor will I forgive the authors of 
the assassination, or forget every proper moment if announcing my remem- 
brance. It is wonderful that you should have been silent on this head — It 
proves their cunning & your lethargy — 

Turberville writes two letters to me & says nothing on the subject — 

I hope imaginary doctrines & western prejudices will not govern the votes 
of my country — If they do, we shall suffer bitterly, but our sufferings will not 
be long, for full information will put all things right. 

Farewel. H. Lee Jun r 

Not until December of 1786 did the Lee family come back to 
Stratford. They drove overland in the midst of severe snowstorms. Col- 
onel Harry wrote his brother Richard Bland Lee: 

"My dear Matilda & my young Heir experienced every hardship 
from roads & weather for three weeks which time was taken up to reach 
Alexandria from New York, & we were all in an act of being buryed in 
the waters of potomac — a noble burying ground.” 


The following May, Matilda’s fourth child — a son — was born and 
named for his father. He was the fourth Henry in the family. 

Probably to his surprise, Colonel Harry was reelected to Congress 
for the session of 1787. Sometime during that summer Matilda again 
made the long journey to New York with her babies, leaving Philip, 
their eldest son, in care of the housekeeper at Stratford. He is mentioned 
by his cousin Lucinda Lee in her journal of a Young Lady of Virginia: 

"We brought to Chantilly Col° H. Lee’s little Boy. He has stayed at 
Stratford since his Papa and Mama went to New York. I assure you he 
is a very line child.” 

An amusing reference to the family in New York is made by their 
bachelor kinsman, Arthur Lee, in a letter to the Shippens. Arthur ap- 
parently does not relish visiting where babies and politics are combined: 

". . .1 presume you were all very happy at Whitehill & [illegible] 
above all who had the happiness of hearing calamitous disappointments, 
vexation — torment — torture — [illegible] — , Matilda crying, Nancv 
pouting — Harry Lee ranting — delightful group for a social party.. . ,” 10 

After Congress adjourned and the family returned to Stratford, Ma- 
tilda’s mother and sister visited them for the winter. Flora was engaged 
to be married to her first cousin, Ludwell Lee of Chantilly, and the wed- 
ding was to take place at Stratford in January, 1788. From the descrip- 
tion of Flora given by her cousin, Lucinda Lee, in the journal of a 
Young Lady of Virginia, she was far from being as beautiful or at- 
tractive as Matilda: 

Well, my dear, they are come, and, as I expected, brought Flora with them. 
She is very genteal, and wears monstrous Bustles. Her face is just as it always 
was. You, my dearest, that posses a great deal of Sencibility, would have sup- 
posed she would have been delighted to see me — far from it, I assure you. She 
saluted me just as if I had been a common acquaintance, and was not. I thought, 
at all glad to see me; but I suppose it is fashionable to affect indifference. I 
hope, my dearest, we shall always stear clear of such unnatural Fashions. She 
received Nancy in the same manner. . . . 

The records of this fifth generation of the Lees show an odd sequence 
of marriages, connecting their family with that of the family Wash- 
ington. The Washingtons of Bushfield, the beautiful country seat just 
below Chantilly, were intimates of all the Lee households of Westmore- 
land and Prince William. Young Bushrod Washington, the general’s 
favorite nephew and heir of Mount Vernon, received his elementary 
education at Chantilly under the same tutors who instructed the sons 
of Richard Henry Lee. In later years when he studied law in Philadel- 

10 Shippen Papers. Lloyd P. Shippen. 



phia, he worshipped at the shrine of Alice Lee’s daughter, Nancy Ship- 
pen. Mildred Washington, his only sister, married Richard Henry Lee’s 
eldest son, Thomas Ludwell Lee, and they lived at Park Gate in Prince 
William County, not far from Leesylvania. Richard Henry’s daughter, 
Mary, married Colonel William Augustine Washington. His younger 
daughter, Nancy, became the wife of Colonel Harry’s brother, Charles 
Lee, attorney general in the cabinets of Washington and Adams. 
Another daughter of Chantilly, Sarah Lee, married her cousin, Edmund 
Jennings Lee, who was also a brother of Colonel Harry. Mount Vernon 
and Bushfield became more closely linked than ever with Stratford, 
Chantilly, and Leesylvania when Richard Henry’s daughter Hannah 
married Corbin Washington of Walnut Hill and their son, John Augus- 
tine Washington, succeeded Bushrod as the owner of Mount Vernon. 
By many of the Lees it was considered that Mount Vernon was but re- 
verting to its original Lee ownership when the grandson of Richard 
Henry became its proprietor. 

Ludwell Lee, whom Flora married, was the second son of Richard 
Henry and Anne Aylett Lee. He was born on October 13, 1760. After 
several years of home instruction he was sent with his older brother 
Thomas to school in England. He returned to Virginia during the 
Revolution and served as an aid to Lafayette. After the war he studied 
law at the College of William and Mary, about the same time his Phila- 
delphia cousin, Tom Shippen, was a student there, under Chancellor 
Wythe. Later he was elected to the Virginia legislature. 

January 23, 1788 was the date of his marriage to Flora, co-heiress 
with Matilda of Stratford. This was the third family wedding to take 
place in the Great House. 

Flora and Ludwell established their home near Alexandria, where 
they built a house on the crest of Shuter’s Hill. A lofty pile of masonry, 
the Masonic Memorial to Washington, today stands on the site of their 
home and over the unmarked graves of both Flora and Nancy Lee, wife 
of Attorney General Charles Lee. In later years Ludwell moved to 
Loudoun County and built the stately Georgian house near Leesburg 
commemorating Portia’s estate in its name, Belmont. 11 


With the coming of June, 1788, Harry Lee was in attendance as a 
delegate to the Virginia Convention, called in Richmond to ratify the 
Constitution of the United States. The leading men of Virginia’s ju- 

u Belmont is in its original state today and is the home of the former Secretary of War, Pat- 
rick Hurley, and Mrs. Hurley. 

Nancy Lee (Mrs. Charles Lee), daughter of Richard Henry Lee: from the original portrait 
by Sully, now in the possession of Mrs. foseph Packard. 



diciary were there with those of the political world of that day, among 
them: John Marshall, James Madison, Bushrod Washington, George 
Wythe, John Randolph, Benjamin Harrison, William Cabell, Edmund 
Pendleton, Patrick Henry, and George Mason. 

The stand taken by Lee for ratification would in itself make him an 
outstanding figure in the nation’s history if he had never done anything 
else. It is recorded word for word in the minutes of the convention. Ex- 
cerpts and running comment from these records tell a dramatic story: 

Wednesday June 5 . . . Lee answers opposition to the Constitution by em- 
phasizing "the necessity of coolly and calmly to examine and fairly and im- 
partially to determine.” He objects to the introduction of personalities, especi- 
ally of Washington; advocates that the Constitution stand "by its own merit.” 
He defends the expression "We the people” instead of We the States.” He 
attributes the weakness of government, the economic and social chaos then 
prevailing and the lack of American prestige abroad, to the Articles, and closes 
with the expressed conviction that the Constitution is the best solution for 
the happiness of the American people. 

Monday, June 9 . . . Lee replies to Patrick Henry who he says is "throwing 
those bolts, which he has so peculiar a dexterity at discharging,” and makes 
fun of "those luminous points which he has entertained us with” in his "previ- 
ous harangues.” Lee defends the republicanism of the friends of the Consti- 
tution, the militia clause, and the method of adoption provided. He opposes 
tender laws as worse than "Pandora’s box,” and says in conclusion: "The 
people of America, sir, are one people. I love the people of the north, not 
because they have adopted the constitution, but because I fought with them 
as my countrymen, and because I consider them as such. Does it follow from 
hence that I have forgotten my attachment to my native state? In all local 
matters I shall be a Virginian. In those of general nature, I shall not forget 
that I am an American.” 

On Wednesday, June 11 . . .he chides Mason for "irregular and disorderly 
manner” pointing out that "ridicule is not the test of truth” and that he "that 
can raise the loudest laugh is [not] the soundest reasoner.” 

Thursday, June 12 . . Lee defends his record in Congress with the Jay- 
Gardoqui negotiations relative to the opening of the Mississippi. Saturday, 
June 14 . . . He points out contradictory arguments of the antiratificationists. 
Monday, June 23 Lee makes his last speech, closing with: "Then, sir, I pray 
you remember, and the gentlemen in opposition not to forget, that should these 
impious scenes commence, which my honorable friend might abhor, and which 
I execrate, whence and how they begun. God of Heaven avert from my country 
the dreadful curse; but if the madness of some, and the vice of others, should 
risk the awful appeal, I trust the friends of this paper on your table, conscious 
of the justice of their cause, conscious of the integrity of their views, and recol- 
lecting their uniform moderation will meet the afflicting call with that firmness 
and fortitude, which become men summoned to defend what they conceive to 
be the true interest of their country, and will prove to the world, that although 



they boast not in words of love of country, and affect for liberty, still they are 
not less attached to these invaluable objects, than their vaunting opponents, 
and can with alacrity and resignation encounter every difficulty and danger in 
defense of them.” 

While Lee did not speak as frequently or as long as did other promi- 
nent men in the Convention, his sincerity of conviction and his steadfast- 
ness of purpose made him an important factor in helping to bring about 
Virginia’s ratification of the Constitution. 

The way was now open for the next most important step in the opera- 
tion of the Federal Government, the election of its first president. 
When the Continental Congress convened, Harry Lee was present and 
delivered his credentials July 29, 1788. As the summer passed without 
definite or constructive action, Lee was beside himself with anxiety for 
the country’s fate and with impatience over the futile delays and end- 
less obstructions to definite action. Finally he could hold himself in 
check no longer. On Friday, September 12, 1788, he made this motion: 

Whereas longer delay in the previous arrangements necessary to put into 
operation the federal government, may produce national injury, Resolved, That 
the first Wednesday in January next, be the time for appointing the electors in 
the several states, which before the said day shall have ratified the said con- 
stitution; and that the first Wednesday in February next, be the day for the 
electors to assemble in their respective states, and vote for a president; and 
that the first Wednesday in March next, be the time, and the present seat of 
Congress, the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution. 
[This motion in substantially these words was adopted Sept. 13, 1788. J 12 

Coincident with this motion Lee wrote to General Washington: 

. . . my anxiety is extreme that the new government may have an auspicious 
beginning — To effect this & perpetuate a nation formed under your auspices, 
it is certain that again you will be called forth. The same principles of devo- 
tion to the good of mankind which has invariably governed your conduct, will 
no doubt continue to rule your mind however opposite the consequences may 
be, to your repose and happiness. Without you the govt- ca n have but little 
chance of success, & the people of that happiness which its prosperity must 

Many similar letters had been written to Washington. Hamilton and 
Madison were among the friends who had long pleaded with him to 
accept this office. But he had been reluctant. Then came this effectively 
phrased, earnest, and sincere appeal from his brave and devoted young 
subordinate of the Revolution. Was it this plea that won Washington’s 
consent and gave the nation its greatest man for its first President? It 
might readily have been so. 

12 The Journals of the American Congress from 1774 to 1788. Vol. 4, Washington, 1823, p. 



Before the adjournment of Congress, Lee took part in other con- 
structive measures. He urged the erection of the necessary public build- 
ings for the accommodation of Congress at the new Federal capital on 
the Potomac at Georgetown. He advocated improvements in the trans- 
portation of mail. His interest continued in building up "the western 
territory” and in providing machinery for negotiating treaties and the 
adjustment of differences with Indian tribes. 

But his stand for the ratification of the Constitution, as well as cer- 
tain other measures, rendered him so unpopular with his constituents 
that he was not returned to Congress. 

Back at Stratford Matilda’s continued ill health was becoming a 
source of desperate concern to Colonel Harry. He wrote Richard Henry 
that Matilda "continues very low and subject to fevers every now and 
then, difficulty of breathing and great debility of body. Our invaluable 
Mrs. Fendall is arrived in Baltimore.” Matilda was dependent on her 
mother’s solicitude and the affection which she returned. 

But Matilda’s mother was gravely ill and the voyage from Alexan- 
dria had made her "too weak to proceed hither. Mrs. Lee wishes to 
go and see her mamma & altho I know no good can be done to either & 
some injury may result to Mrs. Lee from the attempt yet I cannot quiet 
her frequent uneasiness only by commencing the trip.” 

Mrs. Fendall suffered from an incurable disease. Colonel Harry 
planned, therefore, to take Matilda by boat to Alexandria to ''our best 
of mothers.” Suddenly the message came that Mrs. Fendall was dead. 
Matilda was prostrated by the news. After the funeral she was ill for 
many weeks and her husband remained in Alexandria with her. He 
wrote James Madison: "You have heard of the loss we have met with 
in the death of M rs - Fendall — better for her to be sure had this event 
taken place sooner & altho’ we are convinced of this truth yet our afflic- 
tion is immoderate. Poor M rs - Lee is particularly injured by it, as the 
affliction of mind adds to the infirmity of her body. ...” 

Even in the midst of his family anxieties Colonel Harry was not too 
busy to be of service to his hero, Washington. On March 14, 1789, he 
wrote from Alexandria: 

My dear General. 

I shall leave your deed with Mr. C Lee, after having procured the most prob- 
able attendants on the general court, to witness it (of which he will be one) . 

As the hour is at hand, when you must again leave your country & my de- 
parture this evening or tomorrow prevents my bidding you adieu in person, I 
beg leave now to offer my most sincere wishes for the continuation of your 



health and for prosperity to your administration of the general govt- 

It seems decreed by fate that you should be our Numa as well as our Romulus 
— Certainly great difficulty 3 lay in your way but they will diminish I trust, as 
they are approached. 

Our nation may be made happy & respectable, supported as you will be by 
the sincere affection & high confidence of the body of the people, I anticipate 
with delight our approaching felicity and your new glory — They are entwined 
together, & I hope will never be cut asunder. 

It would be arrogant in me to make a tender of my services on this occasion, 
and nothing but the unalterable respect and attachment which I feel towards 
you, would induce me to mention it. 

Sincere and invariable in these sentiments, it will afford me great satisfaction 
to manifest whenever I can be useful how much I admire your character & 
how truely I am devoted to the promotion of the common weal. 

M r3 Lee begs me to make her respects to M r3 Washington and again to ex- 
press the weight of gratitude she feels for the friendly attention she has been 
pleased to honor her with, during her confinement here. 

I am my dear general 
always & truely, your friend 
& ob t serv.t 

Henry Lee. 13 

Gen. 1 Washington 

Washington replied instantly and in a tone of unusual warmth and 

Mount Vernon, March 14th, 1789- 

[Col. H. Lee] 

My Dear Sir — Your letter of this date, was put into my hands on my return 
from a ride, at the moment dinner was waiting, for which reason I have only 
time to express in a single word my love and thanks for the sentiments con- 
tained in it; and to assure you that my best wishes, in which Mrs. Washington 
unites, are presented to Mrs. Lee, and that with sincere regard and affection, 

I am ever yours, 

Geo. Washington. 14 

P.S. If we have any thing which can be of service to Mrs. Lee, on her passage, 
please to command it. 

With the passing of summer and winter Matilda’s condition showed 
no improvement. Cancelling all his business and political projects, 
Colonel Harry devoted himself to her care. He decided to try the waters 
of medicinal springs in western Virginia. In a letter to Madison from 
Stratford, March 4, 1790, shortly before they set out on the long jour- 
ney, he said, "Mrs. Lee’s health is worse and worse, I begin to fear the 
worst. She begs you would present her most affecy- to her friends Mrs. 

"Papers of George Washington, Doc. 73, Vol. 242, Library of Congress. 
u The Campaign of 1781 in the Carolina Lee, H. Appendix XLIV. 



Colden and Hamilton and unites with me in best wishes for your health 
and happiness.” 

But the waters could not cure Matilda, and Colonel Harry brought 
her home again to Stratford. On June 12, 1790, he wrote to Washing- 
ton, "My long afflicted Mrs. Lee is now very ill & I fear cannot be 
preserved — ” 

Grievously ill though she was, Matilda was aroused by the confusion 
of her husband’s finances to the necessity of preserving Stratford and 
certain other estates for their children. It was undoubtedly at her sug- 
gestion that on August 10, 1790, the following deed of trust was made: 

Between Henry Lee of Stratford, Esq. and Matilda his wife of the first part, 
Philip Ludwell Lee, Henry Lee, and Lucy Grymes Lee, children of said Henry 
and Matilda his wife of the second part and Richard Bland Lee and Ludwell 
Lee, Esq. of the third part, the said Henry Lee and Matilda his wife for con- 
sideration in the said Indenture mentioned did by the said Indenture Bargain 
and Sell unto Richard Bland Lee and Ludwell Lee and their heirs all the land 
and property of the said Henry Lee and Matilda his wife situated lying and 
being in the County of Westmoreland known by the name of Stratford tract, 
the upper and lower Cliffs and also the land the property of the said Henry 
Lee and Matilda his wife lying in the County of Lairfax, &c. ... to the 
said Richard Bland Lee and Ludwell Lee and their heirs in trust for such uses 
intent and purposes and with and under such provision and agreement as in the 
aforesaid Indenture are compressed — that is to say to the use and behoof of 
the said Henry Lee and Matilda his wife for and during their natural life and 
the life of the longest liver of them after their decease then the said land in the 
County of Westmoreland and known by the name of Stratford tract the upper 
and lower cliffs &c. to the use of the said Philip Ludwell Lee the eldest son of 
the said Henry and Matilda his wife and his heirs and the land in the County 
of Loudown known by the name of sugar Lands plantation to the use of the 
said Henry Lee youngest son of the said Henry Lee and Matilda his wife and 
his heirs and it was further proved in and by the said Indenture that if either 
of the said sons should die without issue under the age of 21 years that then 
and in that case the lands held for the use of the one so dying should be to the 
use and behoof of the surviver and his Heirs and if both should die under age 
without issue then the said lands were to be held to and for the use of Lucy 
Grymes Lee daughter of the said Henry Lee and Matilda his wife and her heirs 
forever &c. . . . 

Matilda’s life was fast ebbing. Shortly after placing her name on this 
deed of trust, she died at Stratford at the age of twenty-six. Her hus- 
band was inconsolable. This "domestic calamity,” as he referred to it, 
was the first real personal tragedy of his life. 

His friend, General Washington, was near him in his grief as he was 
always in every crisis of his life. Washington wrote him from New 
York, August 27, 1790, about two weeks after Matilda’s death: 


It is unnecessary to assure you of the interest I take in whatever nearly con- 
cerns you. I therefore very sincerely condole with you on your late, and great 
losses; but as the ways of Providence are as inscrutable as just, it becomes the 
children of it to submit with resignation and fortitude to its decrees as far as 
the feelings of humanity will allow, and your good sense will, I am persuaded, 
enable you to do this. Mrs. Washington joins me in these sentiments and 
with great esteem and regard, I am, my dear Sir, etc. 

From Lee’s notation on this letter, "The death of my wife and son,” it 
would appear that Matilda died in giving birth to her fifth child, who 
did not survive her. In the family burial ground at Stratford bevond the 
east wing of the mansion, across the broad expanse of the fragrant gar- 
dens, Harry Lee built the vault in which he buried his beloved wife. 

( 1790 - 1890 ) 



L ATE in the fall of that desolate year, 1790, when Harry Lee re- 
turned to Richmond as a member of the Assembly, he was made 
4 leader of the lower house and chairman of the important Com- 
mittee of Propositions and Grievances. With many other Virginians, 
he was beginning to feel that the interests of Virginia, her self-respect 
as a state, and her political and economic fibre, and indeed that of the 
entire South, were being jeopardized by a misinterpretation of the Con- 
stitution. As its provisions were translated by the Northern majority and 
put into actual operation, they were, he thought, proving to be inimical 
to the South. In his frequent letters to James Madison throughout that 
year, Lee spoke freely what was in his mind: 

. . . [Patrick] Henry already is considered as a prophet, his predictions are 
daily verifying. His declaration with respect to the division of interest which 
would exist under the Constitution and predominate in all the doings of the 
gov r - already has been undeniably proved. But we are committed and we cannot 
be releived I fear only by disunion. To disunite is dreadful to my mind, but 
dreadful as it is, I consider it a lesser evil than union on the present conditions. 
I had rather myself submit to all the hazards of war and risk the loss of 
everything dear to me in life, than to live under the rule of a fixed insolent 
northern majority. At present this is the case, nor do I see any prospect of 
alteration or alleviation. 

Change of the seat of govt- to the territorial center, direct taxation and the 
abolition of gambling systems of finance might and would effect a material 
change. But these suggestions are vain and idle. No policy will be adopted 
by Congress which does not more or less tend to depress the South and exalt 
the North. I have heard it asserted that your vice president should say the 
Southern people were found by nature to subserve the convenience and inter- 
ests of the North — or in plain words to be slaves to the North — very soon will 
his assertion be thoroughly exemplified. How do you feel, what do you think, 
is your love for the Constitution so ardent, as to induce you to adhere to it tho 
it should produce ruin to your native Country — I hope not, I believe not. . . . 

When Madison inquired what Lee thought the attitude of Virginians 
was toward the general government, Colonel Harry replied: 

I am not interested, only in common with my fellow citizens, and individually 
I care not what fiscal policy is pursued. 1 cannot give you any opinion with 
tolerable precision on the feelings of our people towards the general gov- 
ernment. Living in a very retired part of the country and mixing only with a 
few neighbours I have little opportunity of knowing the general mind. 

While on the last session of Assembly, I was impressed with a belief that 
the enmity was rather encreasing than otherwise. The debates of your house 
during this session, I have not seen on any subject but have heard that as far 

[ 263 ] 


as your intentions have been discovered they are not esteemed on this side 
of the Potomac. It seems to me that you must introduce real taxation and bring 
the seat of Govt, near the center of territory, or we Southern people must be 
slaves in effect, or cut the Gordian Knot at once. By these two measures we 
shall be greatly assisted and may be able to bear up, till our encrease in inhabit- 
ants may place us nearer equality. . . . 

In another letter to Madison, Lee said: 

. . . This government which we both admired so much will I fear prove 
ruinous in its operation to our native State. Nothing as I said in my let r - the 
other day can alleviate our sufferings but the establishment of the permanent 
seat near the center of territory & direct taxation. . . . 

The position taken some time before by Richard Henry Lee and the 
minority group opposing the Constitution as originally framed was once 
more in the minds of all Virginians. Had Richard Henry Lee been 
right? Many thought that he was. Report of the change in Harry Lee’s 
views and ideas circulated throughout the state and his stand was widely 
acclaimed. Already he stood in the nation’s eye among the first of the 
younger statesmen. He was a member of Congress. He was known to 
be an intimate friend of Washington. He had upheld ratification of the 
Constitution and, as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Conven- 
tion, he had delivered speeches that made him a national figure. 

His new attitude toward state rights gave rise to a widespread con- 
fidence in Virginia. The people felt that he would prove a bulwark 
against Northern aggression. He was constantly on guard against "un- 
due influence [from the North] or a latent design inimical to the in- 
tention and true spirit of the Constitution.” As he wrote Madison, he 
was ready to take up his sword in behalf of his state. 

In the ten years that had intervened since the surrender of Cornwallis 
at Yorktown, the memory of this and of his other valorous exploits, both 
as Lee of the Light-Horse and Lee of the Legion, gathered weight. His 
military record was tinged with high adventure, color and romance. 
Harry Lee was one of Virginia’s great heroes of the Revolution. This 
was remembered now as it had never been before. Lee was offered the 
highest honor Virginia could bestow, the office of Governor. 

During the first week of November, 1791, a committee of the Vir- 
ginia Assembly waited on Harry Lee; and the chairman said: 

Sir, we are appointed by the General Assembly to notify you of your elec- 
tion to the office of Chief Magistrate of this Commonwealth. We feel peculiar 
pleasure in conveying this information to you, a pleasure resulting as well 
from our personal respect and regard for you as from this reflection, 

That whilst the General Assembly have consulted the welfare and dignity 
of the Commonwealth in conferring to you this distinguished honor, they 

Henry Lee, Governor of Virginia: from the original portrait by Saint-Memin. 


have acknowledged at the same time and in the fullest manner the high sense 
which they entertain of you as a soldier and as a citizen. 

In accepting the office, Lee said: 

I receive with humility and with gratitude the distinguished honor conferred 
upon me; to my mind invaluable because it conveys the strongest testimony of 
affection and confidence of the country. . . . Accept, Gentlemen, my acknowl- 
edgments for the obliging manner in which you have communicated my ap- 
pointment and permit me to declare that my heart returns with sincerity the 
sentiments of personal respect and regard with which you have been pleased 
to honor me. 

When Virginia was a Colony, just such an honor had been received by 
another master of Stratford — its builder, Thomas Lee. It had come to 
him at a time when he, too, was bowed down in sorrow over the death 
of his wife. Harry Lee, enduring a similar loss, now entered upon his 
first term as Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, an 
office to which he was to be twice reelected. So high was he in the 
regard of Virginians that he was even spoken of as a possible successor 
to President Washington. 

From Stratford Colonel Harry moved to the Governor’s Mansion in 
Richmond, bringing his children, Philip, Lucy, and Henry, the servants 
they would require, equipages and horses. The family had been in 
Richmond but a little over a year when, during 1792, the duties of the 
governor’s office necessitated a trip to the border. Western Virginia 
was a frontier region and communication with eastern points almost im- 
possible. Only when Colonel Harry returned to Richmond some weeks 
later — the date is not recorded — he learned that Philip had died. 

In a letter to Madison he describes this "domestic calamity which stirs 
me to the quick. . . .Iam still depressed in my mind and continue to 
be the subject of unavailing woe. My son on whom I chiefly rested for 
future comfort was suddenly deprived of life during my absence, which 
event on the back of what took place two years past has removed me far 
from the happy enjoyment of life.” 

Philip — heir of Stratford — was the third Philip Ludwell Lee of the 
family. Of his three children, Philip was Colonel Harry’s favorite. The 
boy evidently resembled his mother, the Divine Matilda. In the minia- 
ture that survives, the face is delicate oval, the eyes and hair dark. There 
is a haunting quality of sweetness in the child’s expression. Members of 
the family say the miniature was never out of Colonel Harry’s possession 
until he left the United States for the West Indies. 1 

1 This miniature is owned by Light-Horse Harry Lee’s great-granddaughter, Mrs. Hugh 
Antrim of Richmond, Virginia. 

The third Philip Ludwell Lee, heir of Stratford : from the original miniature. 


Another year passed by. Colonel Harry was reelected to the office of 
Chief Magistrate of Virginia. 


Shirley-on-the-James was the home of Ann Hill Carter: 

. . . dear Shirley. . . . that then, new seat of the Old Carters was the scene 
of unbounded hospitality & polished gaiety. Not only the new dwelling house, 
but the old Hill mansion, & the Laundry, as it was called in my childhood 
(brick building of two stories, & two rooms on a floor, & a passage between 
them), were pressed into the service of the many guests — sons & daughters & 
their families — nephews neices & friends at propitious seasons filled their 
capacities to the utmost. Of course, it was a great place for the exercises of 
the archery of "the winged and quivered boy,” & the sighs of his victory often 
filled the house & the garden of roses. ... 2 

Nancy Carter, as she was called in the family, was Charles Carter’s 
child by his second wife, Ann Butler Moore of Chelsea, great-grand- 
daughter of Virginia’s early colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood. 
Their marriage had taken place between 1770 and 1771. 

Old Corotoman, the ancestral seat of the Carters on the Rappahan- 
nock River, was their home. As far back as the year 1650, when the first 
settlement of Lancaster County was made, Charles Carter’s great-great- 
grandfather, Colonel John Carter, built Corotoman. He came from 
Hertfordshire, England, settled in Virginia in the sixteen-forties and 
was a member of the Assembly from Norfolk County at the time the 
first Richard Lee was prominent in affairs of the Colony. After John 
Carter secured a grant to several thousand acres in the region of the 
Rappahannock and Corotoman Rivers, he moved to Lancaster County 
and built his great house called after the Corotoman, a tributary of the 
Rappahannock. He represented Lancaster in the House of Burgesses. 
According to G. W. Beale: 

Colonel Carter was a loyal churchman, and interested in the spiritual welfare 
of his neighbors, and he showed his interest by erecting at his personal expense, 
the first church building established between the Rappahannock and the Po- 
tomac. This building was completed about the year 1670, and called Christ’s 
church. It became before its completion a monument and tomb for its benevo- 
lent donor, who, having died on June 10, 1669 was interred within its walls "to 
the east of the chancel.” Colonel Carter was married three times. . . . 

His oldest son, Robert, surnamed "King,” was for several years the sole 
male representative of the family [says Mr. Beale], and about 1680 entered 
into the occupancy of the Corotoman home. He had, it seems, before reach- 
ing his majority, sought a wife beyond the Rappahannock, and his quest had 
been rewarded in securing Judith, the eldest daughter of John Armistead, Esq., 

description by Carter Lee of the girlhood home of his mother. Ann Hill Carter. 



of Hesse, in Gloucester, whom he married in 1678 Robert Carter 

. . . was conspicuously active with business affairs and public responsibilities. 
He was one of the early solicitors of funds for the erection of William and 
Mary College, a leading vestryman of Christ’s church, a member of the House 
of Burgesses, and for six years its Speaker, acting Governor of the Colony, in 
1727, and for nearly or quite a quarter of a century, a member of the King’s 
Council for Virginia. In 1703 he accepted the responsible and delicate position 
of attorney and agent for Thomas Culpeper, Lord Proprietor of the Northern 
Neck. . . . 

In 1711 Robert Carter, supreme in colonial affairs, was succeeded in 
this office by Thomas Lee, young enough to be his grandson. As a result 
there were strained relations between Carters and Lees for a long period. 

King Carter’s landed estates embraced more than 300,000 acres in 
various parts of the Colony. He had over a thousand slaves. "The ampli- 
tude of his possessions,” says Beale, "and the opulence in which he was 
able to live, gained for him among his contemporaries the soubriquet of 
'King,’ his claim to which, it would seem, successive generations have 
seemed content to allow.” 

Robert Carter died on August 4, 1732, leaving fifteen children from 
his two marriages. "The sons were liberally trained at William and 
Mary College, or in England, and the daughters had every advantage 
the educational facilities of the colony afforded. The older son, John, 
became Secretary of the Colony, and held this office so long that the 
name 'Secretary’ became permanently attached to him. He married 
Elisabeth Hill, daughter of Sir Edward Hill of Shirley on the James.” 3 

Following the death of the heir-at-law, Corotoman passed into the 
possession of Charles Carter, son of Secretary (John) Carter and Elisa- 
beth Hill. In 1750 Charles married his cousin, Mary Carter of Cleve. 
Twenty years later, January 30, 1770, her death occurred. Not long 
afterwards Carter married Ann Butler Moore. Their daughter Ann Hill 
was born at Corotoman in the year 1773. In her mingled the strains of 
those families so distinguished in the colonial history of Virginia: Car- 
ter, Hill, Moore, and Spotswood. 

Some years before Charles Carter’s second marriage, his mother Elisa- 
beth Hill Carter, widow of Secretary John Carter, had married Bowler 
Cocke and returned to live at her girlhood home, Shirley on the James, 
to which she had fallen heir. In June, 1771, she died. Two months later 
her husband, Bowler Cocke, also died. 

3 An early connection with the Lees was established when Secretary Carter’s youngest sister, 
Lucy, married Henry Fitzhugh of Eagle’s Nest, the son of William Fitzhugh and his wife, Ann, 
only sister of Thomas Lee of Stratford. 


By John Carter’s will, his son Charles inherited Shirley. But the heirs 
of Bowler Cocke disputed his right to possession. The plantation was 
not awarded Carter until December, 1772, after a complicated law suit. 
Charles Carter was called "Charles Carter of Corotoman and of Shir- 
ley.” He represented the county of Lancaster in the House of Burgesses 
and also continued to preside regularly as justice of the peace in that 
county from 1772 to October, 1775. The Lancaster records show that he 
continued to reside at Corotoman. According to the unpublished diaries 
of his cousin, Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, and also from other docu- 
mentary sources, Charles Carter was living at Corotoman until he moved 
to Shirley in 1776. His daughter, Ann Hill, was then three years old. 4 

Shirley, on the north bank of the James River, in Charles City County, 
was about thirty miles from Richmond. The plantation, comprising 
several thousand acres, was just above the point where the Appomattox 
River flows into the James. Of level or gently undulating character, the 
land lay wide open to the sun. The original Hill mansion was built 
close beside the river in this pleasant and fruitful wilderness six years 
after Jamestown was founded. The original house, which disappeared 
generations ago, stood very near the "new dwelling house” which Carter 
Lee mentions, and was probably built by Charles Carter during the last 
quarter of the eighteenth century. 

Shirley was originally the property of Thomas West, Lord Delaware, 
and his three brothers. Lyon Gardiner Tyler says the house was first oc- 
cupied in 1613, when Sir Thomas Dale established Bermuda Hundred. 

It was called originally West-and-Sherley-Hundred. . . . [In 1602] Thomas 
West, Lord Delaware, [had] married Cecilly, daughter of Sir Thomas Sherley 
. . . [of Whiston England], In 1664, 2,544 acres at Shirley Hundred were 
patented by Major Edward Hill, Sr., a man of great prominence in the colony. 
The land was inherited by his son Colonel Edward Hill, Jr., who left a son, 
Colonel Edward Hill, and two daughters, Hannah . . . and Elisabeth, who 
married John Carter, secretary of state. . . . Colonel Edward Hill, third of 
the name, died in 1720 without children, and Shirley descended to his sister 
Elisabeth Carter, and has since remained in the Carter family. 5 

The young English woman of high degree, the Lady Cecilly from 
whom Shirley derived its name, may have lived there in the perilous 
years following the settlement at Jamestown. It is quite possible that 
she did. Shirley’s next owners, Sir Edward Hill, his son Edward, and 
his grandson, also named Edward Hill, took a leading part in the gov- 

4 See Supplementary Records for documentary material proving that Corotoman was the resi- 
dence of Charles Carter from 1771 to 1776 and the birthplace of Ann Hill Carter. 

6 77m Cradle of the Republic, by Lyon Gardiner Tyler. Richmond, 1906, Hermitage Press. 


ernment of the Colony, each in his generation, precisely as the Lees 
and the Carters did. They, too, were closely associated with those other 
Old Standers of James City and Williamsburg, the six progenitors of the 
Stratford Lees: Ludwell, Lee, Corbin, Harrison, Bland, and Jenings. 

"Four-square to the world and three stories high,” as Swepson Earle 
says in The Chesapeake Bay Country, Shirley "stands in the midst of a 
lawn shaded by giant oaks. Rows of many-paned dormer windows look 
out from all four sides of its sloping roof, and huge chimneys tower 
above them. To the rear of the mansion are substantial brick outbuild- 
ings. At one side lies the flower garden with its box hedges, old-fash- 
ioned roses and beds of sweet lavender and mignonette, while the front 
commands a beautiful view of the river.” 

A large wooden pineapple, symbol of welcome, crowns the apex of 
the roof. Two spacious dependencies, formerly in line with the main 
building, have disappeared, although two other original outbuildings 
remain. The "new dwelling house” of the late eighteenth century has 
beauty and dignity within and without. The rooms are richly panelled 
and have lofty, spacious proportions with open fireplaces and long, 
deep-seated windows. A "flying staircase” rises from the entrance hall 
to the second floor. 

Like King Carter, his grandfather, Charles Carter of Corotoman and 
Shirley, also had a family of patriarchal size — twenty-one children by 
his two marriages. He appears to have been exceptionally devoted to 
Nancy, the daughter of his old age. So was she to him. Judging from 
letters recently coming to light, her early life was exceedingly happy and 

As if there were not brothers and sisters enough to serve as playmates 
and companions for his youngest daughter, Charles Carter invited his 
great-nieces, Betsy and Maria Farley of Nesting, to visit Shirley so fre- 
quently that it became their second home. These "adopted daughters” 
of Shirley were about Nancy’s age. Betsy (Elizabeth Carter Byrd Far- 
ley) was a year older, Maria Byrd a year younger. Their mother, Elisa- 
beth Hill Byrd of Westover, was the daughter of Charles Carter’s only 
sister, Elisabeth, who married the third William Byrd of Westover on 
the James. This marriage united the houses of Shirley and Westover 
in a permanent bond of historic association and family relationship. 

When, in the year 1771, Elisabeth Hill Byrd of Westover married 
John Parke Farley of Virginia and Antigua, they established their 
home on a near-by plantation called Nesting. Their two daughters, 


Betsy and Maria Farley, grew up there. Thus a third family household 
became closely knit to Westover and Shirley. 

The three cousins, Nancy, Betsy and Maria, probably shared the same 
governesses and dancing and music masters. Nancy, who was gifted in 
music, sang, and, Tom Shippen says, played the harpsichord "very agree- 
ably.” Surviving letters indicate that each of the three girls received the 
same painstaking instruction in English grammar, rhetoric, spelling, and 
punctuation as in their penmanship. This was not true of the letters of 
most Virginia girls of the day. As they grew into their teens in the de- 
lightful environment of their three James River homes, each one of the 
merry cousins was a belle, "a beauty & fortune.” 

Betsy Farley was the first to break the single blessedness of the trio. 
She married John Bannister, Jr., about 1788. He died soon after. So in 
a very short time Betsy, as a beautiful young widow, was again sharing 
with Maria and Nancy the social gaieties of the James River houses and 
the attentions of the beaux of Tidewater. 

About this time Betsy Farley and Tom Shippen of Philadelphia met 
one another. Tom, a Lee of Stratford on his mother’s side, was an im- 
pressionable youth. He fell head over heels in love with Betsy, and 
in love too, afresh with Shirley, one of the several country seats on 
James River he had long known and to which he had always been 
attached. Ever since his kinswoman of Philadelphia, Mary Willing, 
had married the third William Byrd of Westover after the death of his 
first wife, Elisabeth Hill Carter of Shirley, both Thomas Lee Shippen 
and his father, Dr. William Shippen, Jr., had been occasional guests at 
Westover and at other plantations close by. So endeared to him were 
these old Virginia homes that even in his exciting and adventurous years 
abroad when "taking the grand tour,” Tom never failed to cherish them. 
In a letter to his father, written from London in the late 1780’s, Tom 
said: "When you write say to the houses of Westover, Shirley, Hundred 
& Meade, how do ye in my name. I very often think of the days I 
passed with them — they were halcyon — They are still more so in retro- 
spect.” 6 

Through Tom Shippen’s notes about Nancy Carter and through a 
letter of Maria Farley’s son-in-law, Samuel Appleton Storrow of Boston, 
many events of Ann Hill Carter’s youth and marriage not heretofore 
known are made clear. Thus, curiously, not from Virginia, her home, 

'Shippen Papers. 


but from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts has this interesting informa- 
tion come. 

On November 27, 1790, Tom Shippen said in a letter from Philadel- 
phia to his adored Betsy at Shirley: . . I am a cousin too, and an 

affectionate one to Nancy Carter, and love her independently of your 
attachment to her, or hers to you. ...” 

January 1, 1791, he says again to Betsy: " . . .1 hope you have passed 
a merry Christmas — divided perhaps between Nesting, Westover and 
Shirley as to the scene, as to its occupations between Duty, Charity and 
Mirth.” 7 

What a vivid characterization of those three Virginia homes! And 
how the word "Mirth” pictures Shirley and explains why all the young 
people loved it so and always loved visiting there! 

Betsy Farley’s wedding to Tom Shippen took place in March, 1791, at 
the Farley plantation, Nesting — "Duty,” as named by Tom. His uncle 
Arthur Lee of Stratford, now of Lansdowne-on-the-Rappahannock, was 
with Tom at Nesting for the days of festivity preceding the wed- 
ding. On March 3, 1791, Tom wrote his father from Nesting: ". . . 
We dined yesterday at Shirley and were very kindly treated by Mr. 
Carter and his family. Col Harrison & Col Walker were of the party. 
You were enquired after with great solicitude as you have been at every 
house in the neighborhood — all lamenting the disappointment as a great 
loss which they all have sustained. . . .” 8 

Late in the following autumn the young husband was again in Vir- 
ginia and wrote almost daily to his Betsy, at their country home in 

"Nesting Nov 9, 1791 

"Nov 10 th Good morning to my darling. The weather is so bad that 
we cannot go to Shirley today as we had promised. . . . We had a very 
agreeable day here yesterday. The company were all in fine spirits, and 
we were merry and wise. Nancy Carter was handsomer than I ever saw 
her, your Aunt Walker more kind an affectionate. . . . End of the same 
day. . . . The weather cleared up and we went to Shirley where we 
found besides those we had expected, Mr. John Page, Miss S. Harrison, 
and Miss Lyons. Nancy played several pieces of musick for me very 
agreeably upon her new harpsichord and talked incessantly of you. . . . 
The girls are going with the young ladies of Shirley and Barclay to 
Richmond on Monday to see some plays, and they are all delighted be- 

7 Shippen Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 


yond measure at the thought. We have been plaguing Nancy Carter this 
day or two with a letter supposed to have been addressed to her by 
Frank Walker but which in fact is the production of W Kinloch’s merry 
pen. . . . ” 9 

Again he wrote: ". . .We had a large party yesterday at Shirley.. . 

Another day: ". . .1 shall take your letter today to Shirley for the 
amusement of your friend Nancy Carter who I believe loves you like a 
sister. You see how proud I am of your letters and I beg you to excuse 
my vanity in sharing them. ...” 

On October 28, 1791, Tom dutifully delivered to Betsy the family 
gossip that is the breath of life to a Virginia girl: ”... Has the report 
reached you of our sister Maria’s conquest? It is confidently reported 
that the Lord of Mount Airy is supplicating her for mercy — True it is 
that he has broken off with Miss Lewis and that he has assigne[d] his 
passion for Maria as the cause of his infidelity. Time will discover all 
things — I think Maria is not violently angry with the supposition — He 
is expected at Nesting from the Annapolis races next week where he 
has been all triumphant & victorious.” 

Then in November, 1791, came a brief item around which, un- 
known to them all, revolved the future destiny of their beloved Nancy 
Carter: ” . . .You will have heard of the appointment of Col 0 H Lee to 
the government of Virginia. He was chosen last Wednesday by a great 
majority. . . 

Of Nancy Carter or of Harry Lee, Tom Shippen said nothing more. 
But strange to relate, thirty years later, Colonel Storrow in a letter to his 
sister took up the story where Tom left off. The stage of his record was set 
in what was probably the early spring of 1793, two years after Tom’s rec- 
ord. Massachusetts man though Storrow was, he indulged in a "Prel- 
ude” of comparisons about the characteristics of the ladies of his wife’s 
native heath. He says in this letter: ”... Very fine women (you may 
doubt me) are rather rare here. Female talent has generally received a 
wrong direction. I have seen many a worn out Coquette, many a heart- 
less Belle that wanted but the first impulse to be made useful and happy. 
I have heard of many instances of rare capacities — but waste followed 
possession as tho’ it were irresistable. In fact it may have been so — So- 
ciety (that of Virginia, I mean) was full of splendid meteors: if a 
woman had been inclined to pursue a right path there was no steady 
light whereby she could discern it. ...” 

1> Vol. I, Shippen Letters, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 


But Nancy Carter, Storrow goes on to say, "need not have been [born] 
in Virginia to have been pronounced excellent — there is no circle — 
none on earth — in which she would not be an ornament. She com- 
menced life a spoiled child — a beauty & fortune. . . .’’Of Maria 
Farley ( his wife’s mother) , he says that she too "was a beauty & fortune 
in her day”; that Nancy Carter and she "were pretty much brought up 
together,” Nancy being the elder by a year. 

He then tells the amazing story that "General Lee, at that time at the 
head of everything in Virginia, was in love (honestly, they say) . . .” 
with Maria Farley. "He was handsome, of splendid talents, & Governor 
of the State.” Maria Farley was living at Shirley during the General’s 
suit for her hand. To quote Storrow further: "As desperately as Gen- 
eral Lee was in love with Miss Farley was Miss Carter with General 
Lee, and at the same time compelled to witness his devotion to another 
object. His repeated visits to Miss Farley & utter neglect of her preyed 
upon her health, but drew nothing from her of unkindness to her fortu- 
nate Cousin, & her only interference, & that against herself, was when 
General Lee had made his offer & Miss Farley avowed that she should 
reject it — She then said 'O stop, stop, Maria — You do not know what 
you are throwing away.’ Maria however, persisted in throwing it away, 
& then in the face of decency & delicacy he [Governor Lee] made an 
offer to her [Nancy Carter] which she could not resist. . . .” 10 


To the romantic young people at Shirley the visits of His Excellency, 
the Governor, to Maria Farley and later to their own Nancy Carter, 
must have been a source of exhilarating interest and curiosity. Governor 
Lee usually came to Shirley on horseback. His saddle mounts were 
stout and swift. He rode like the wind. And what a superb horseman 
he was! 

Like most Virginia girls, as much at home in the paddock as in the 
drawing-room, Nancy Carter was undoubtedly impressed by "Mr. Lee’s” 
expert horsemanship. She loved the country, the good times, the dances, 
music, hunts, company, yet she appears curiously to have been always 
somewhat less sophisticated than Betsy and Maria Farley. Beneath the 
surface she took life seriously. She was single-minded, direct, pro- 
foundly sincere, and a hero worshipper. 

But "Mr. Lee,” as she invariably addressed him, or "My dearest Mr. 

‘"Original letter dated September 1, 1821, Samuel Appleton Storrow to his sister in Boston, 
presented to the author for the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc., November, 1933, by 
Miss Anne Carter Greene. See Supplementary Records for letter in full. 


Lee,” as she said, years after they were married, was, apparently, the 
one man of her entire life whom she loved and honored, to whom she 
"looked up” with all the fervor of her honest and unworldly-wise soul. 

In Storrow’s letter he refers to Lee’s turning immediately to Nancy 
Carter after being discarded by Maria, and making her an offer "in the 
face of decency & delicacy.” Storrow wrote of this event nearly thirty 
years after it happened. Intervening circumstances and details are not 
known. Lee had been infatuated with Maria Farley; he was not in love 
with Nancy Carter — not at first. 

Ann was seventeen years younger than her "Mr. Lee.” She had a 
brunette beauty, with olive skin, dark hair and eyes. "She was intense, 
loving and sweet. Although she was always gentle, she was firm, very 
resolute and strong.” 11 

During 1792 and 1793 Harry Lee was turning over in his mind the 
idea of going to revolutionary France. He was in correspondence with 
Lafayette and hoped to secure a high military appointment in the French 
Army. Through a source he does not mention, in a letter to Washington, 
April 29, 1793, he was assured that a Major General’s commission 
would be given him as soon as he arrived in Paris. Such service would 
be what he most desired and could do best. Furthermore, it would take 
him far away from Stratford and from sorrow. He could enter upon a 
new life, new scenes, be with new people, and become part of a great 
social upheaval with the philosophy of which he was deeply sympathetic. 

Lee conferred with Washington, as he always did upon momentous 

Bred to arms, I have always since my domestic calamity wished for a return 
to my profession as the best resort for my mind in its affliction. . . . I am con- 
sequently solicitous for the best advice and this I am persuaded you can give. 
Should it be improper on your part, much as I want it, I must relinquish the 
hope. But as your opinion to me will never be known but to myself and as I 
ask your counsel in your private character, I feel a presumption in favor of my 

If fair war on terms of honor, with certainty of sustenance to the troops, and 
certainty of concert among the citizens will & can be supported by France, I 
will embark. If the reverse in any part is probable, to go would be the com- 
pletion of my lot of misery. You see my situation; you have experienced my 
secrecy in my younger days and you know the inviolable affection I bear toward 
you. Apprehend no improper effects of your free opinion to me. 

Washington discouraged the idea, and, speaking from his own point 
of view, wrote him: 

“Statement to writer by Mrs. Francis. 



... if the case which you have suggested were mine I should ponder well 
before I resolved, not only for private considerations but on public grounds. 
The latter because, being the first magistrate of a respectable State, much 
speculation would be excited by such a measure. . . . the affairs of (France) 
would seem to me to be in the highest paroxysm of disorder; not so much from 
the pressure of foreign enemies, for in the cause of liberty this ought to be 
fuel to the fire of a patriot soldier, and to increase his ardor, but because those 
in whose hands the government is entrusted are ready to tear each other to 
pieces & will more than probably prove the worst foes the country has. . . . 

To this letter Lee replied on May 15, 1793: 

My dear friend. I have to thank you from my heart for your late letter — It 
has had I hope a happy effect for I feel myself yeilding to its weight of reason 
and begin to think that the pursuit of my plan would in the present condition 
of things be madness. 

I shall part with my design (for the execution of which I have prepared 
myself) with extreme reluctance & I hope for a change in the fortune of 
affairs which may be propitious to my wishes. 

In any event I shall bear in remembrance your goodness & pray for your 
constant felicity & prosperity. 

Charles Carter had not approved of Lee’s prospective plans. Mr. Lee 
must give up this mad idea of going to France in such a cause or else 
give up his daughter. Lee gave up the idea. Then Carter wrote him: 

The only objection we ever had to your connection with our beloved daughter 
is now entirely done away. You have declared upon your honor that you have 
relinquished all thoughts of going to France, and we rest satisfied with that 
assurance. As we certainly know that you have obtained her consent, you shall 
have that of her parents most cordially, to be joined together in the holy bonds 
of matrimony, whenever she pleases; and as it is determined on, by the appro- 
bation and sincere affection of all friends, as well as of the parties immediately 
concerned, we think the sooner it takes place the better. 

The date for the wedding was placed in June. When General Wash- 
ington learned of the approaching event, he wrote Lee: 

... As we are told that you have exchanged the rugged and dangerous 
field of Mars for the soft and pleasurable bed of Venus, I do in this, as I shall 
in every thing you may pursue like unto it, good and laudable, wish you all 
imaginable success and happiness. 

At this time, according to a family tradition, Washington sent the 
bride a locket containing his miniature, inscribed, "from Washington 
to his dear Ann.” 

The Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, of Richmond, an- 
nounced on June 26, 1793: 

On Tuesday evening, the 18 th inst. was married at Shirley, Governor Lee, 
to the amiable and accomplished Miss Ann Carter, daughter of Charles Carter, 
Esq. — An event which promises the most auspicious fortune to the wedded 


pair, and which must give the highest satisfaction to their numerous and re- 
spectable relatives. 

Was the present hour fixed to peace, not a voice would be heard interruptive 
of the happy repose which Virginia’s favorite young Souldier has assumed; but 
should cruel fate in the present crisis otherwise command, a different destiny 
awaits, and must awake him. 

An acute sense of gratitude for favors given him was always a pre- 
dominating quality of Harry Lee’s character. It would be unlike him not 
to be touched by Ann Carter’s love for him and to be grateful for it. 
This is evident from the reference he made years afterward when he 
wrote to Carter Lee that the June 18, 1793, that was his wedding day, was 
"marked only by the union of two humble lovers.” 

No description of Ann Lee’s regime as Virginia’s First Lady is avail- 
able. Inevitably she would carry to the Governor’s Mansion the same 
simplicity and lack of ostentation that prevailed at Shirley, the same 
note of hospitality and of social gaiety to which she had always been 
accustomed. By comparison with the great house of Shirley Plantation, 
the Governor’s Mansion in the small town of Richmond was imposing 
only in name. It was a flimsy frame structure, two stories high, whose 
rooms, not half the size of those at Shirley, were plastered and not 
paneled. A high stone wall separated the rough, uncultivated grounds 
around the mansion from the Capitol. 

The neighbors, however, were old friends of the Lees and Carters for 
generations, and they probably welcomed the bride from Shirley with 
open arms. Among them were the Edward Carringtons and the John 

There were, of course, trying adjustments for Ann to make since she 
had to undertake immediately the responsibility of a ready-made family. 
Lucy Grymes and little Henry Lee were difficult children. Because of 
the chronically frail condition of their mother and their father’s preoc- 
cupation with political and business affairs, these two younger children 
seem to have been almost entirely in the care of the servants. When 
Governor Lee was away from his Richmond home, they had frequently 
stayed at Sully with their father’s brother, Richard Bland Lee, and his 
wife. When their father married Ann Carter, Lucy Grymes was about 
eight years old and Henry was six. Both were high-strung, quick- 
tempered, emotional children, impulsive and self-willed. It appears 
that their new mother quickly won Henry’s affection, but with Lucy 
Grymes the relationship seems always to have been more or less strained. 

Circumstances gradually parted Ann Lee from the Farley girls with 


whom she had grown up. The charming Maria, toast of the James 
River region, had thrown away "the suit of the Lord of Mount Airy,” 
scion of the Tayloe family, as she had that of his Excellency, Governor 
Lee, and doubtless of many another. She married one of her Carter 
cousins, William Champe Carter, nephew of Ann’s father. Her new 
home was the Carter country seat, Blenheim, in Albemarle County, too 
far removed from Richmond for her to see Ann often. Several years 
later when the Lees moved to Stratford, the distance prohibited visits 
altogether. Yet Maria brought up her children to love Nancy Carter. 
Maria’s daughter was given the family name so honored for three gene- 
rations, Elisabeth Hill Carter. In 1820 she married Samuel Appleton 
Storrow of Massachusetts, later Judge Advocate General of the United 
States Army. It was he who wrote of Governor Lee’s courtship of Maria 

Elizabeth, or Betsy Farley, as Mrs. Thomas Lee Shippen, made her 
home in the country outside of Philadelphia. After her husband’s death, 
she married George Izzard of South Carolina and went to live in 
Charleston. Many years later she came back to visit Ann Lee in Alex- 
andria, as she wrote her son William Shippen, and their old friendship 
was renewed. 

A close and gratifying connection developed at this time between 
Ann Lee and her husband’s brothers and their wives, particularly with 
the family at Sully, Richard Bland Lee and his wife, Elizabeth Collins, 
and the Charles Lees of Alexandria. Their friendship was to mean a 
great deal to Ann then and in the immediate years ahead. 

During his term as Virginia’s chief magistrate, Harry Lee concen- 
trated upon affairs of government with his characteristic vigor. Like 
Thomas Lee, he never lost his concern for the protection of the frontiers; 
and, arbitrarily perhaps, strengthened the militia patrols on the border, 
after St. Clair’s defeat. Had he waited for due authorization from the 
Federal government, many lives would undoubtedly have been lost 
and Virginia’s border settlements imperilled and permanently retarded. 
When the bill of $20,000 for militia and fortification expenses was pre- 
sented to the Federal Treasury, Secretary of War Knox objected to the 
payment. James Madison and Richard Henry Lee, upholding the neces- 
sity for Governor Lee’s course, fought the case in Congress, and eventu- 
ally the bills were paid. In recognition of their Governor’s protection, 
Virginians gave the name of Lee to the western county formed in the 
Cumberland Mountain region. 


Among other events of Harry Lee’s administration was his stand in 
behalf of the nation’s neutrality policy when he took measures to prevent 
the fitting out and sailing of privateers from Virginia ports. His support 
of Washington’s refusal to aid France in revolution, in the face of 
Genet’s visit to the United States, was a source of surprise to many who 
had known of Lee’s previous attitude. He also sponsored the relief of 
French emigres who settled in Russell County. 

In 1793 he espoused the eleventh amendment to the Constitution. 
His position in this matter was interesting and important. It was in con- 
nection with the suit brought by the Indiana Company against the Com- 
monwealth of Virginia. This suit involved the constitutional right of 
a citizen or citizens of the United States to sue one or more of the sov- 
ereign states of the Union, as well as to determine the extent of the 
judicial power of the United States under the Constitution. The suit 
of Chisholm versus Georgia was already pending, the decision in that 
case being handed down by the Supreme Court on February 18, 1793. 
In Lee’s letter to Lieutenant Governor Wood, dated February 7, 1793, 
Lee stands foursquare for the principle which finally triumphed in the 
form of the eleventh amendment. In another letter of March 3, 1793, Lee 
again points out the necessity for a constitutional amendment, "explana- 
tory of the right of the Federal Judiciary.” Thus he was one of the early 
and ardent advocates of the eleventh amendment. 12 

In the following year came another test of the Constitution — an un- 
toward event threatening civil war. For a long time discontent had 
been brewing among the farmers and mountaineers in the western 
counties of Pennsylvania and the adjacent sections of Virginia, Mary- 
land, and even North Carolina. The root of the trouble lay specifically 
in what they considered an unjust and unreasonable tax levied by the 
Federal government on the one product from which they could earn a 
livelihood — whiskey made from wheat, their only saleable crop. This 
discontent, fanned by desperate living conditions, flamed at length into 
organized rebellion against the government. Modern enlightened treat- 
ment would have called for an investigation of the source of the trouble, 
amelioration of the tax, and a launching, perhaps, of some diversity 
of industries and new ways and means of livelihood for the poverty- 
stricken settlers and their hard-driven families. But there appeared to 
Washington and his Cabinet only one effective course — to crush the re- 
bellion by force of arms. An army of 15,000 soldiers was mustered in 

“Calendar of Virginia State Papers, VI, 28 7 and 304. Tyler, 435 ff. 


infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments — to move in mass against the 
insurgents. Washington appointed Governor Lee Major General in 
charge of the expedition. 

In a letter to Lee, the President said : 

No citizens of the United States can ever be engaged in a service more im- 
portant to their country. It is nothing less than to consolidate and to preserve 
the blessings of that revolution, which, at much expense of blood and treasure, 
constituted us a free and independent nation. It is to give to the world an 
illustrious example of the utmost consequence to the cause of mankind. I 
experienced a heart-felt satisfaction in the conviction that the conduct of the 
troops will be in every respect answerable to the goodness of the cause and the 
magnitude of the stake . 13 

At this crucial moment, when it seemed that the union itself might 
be imperilled, Lee’s allegiance to state rights appears to have wavered. 
Throughout his administration he had been ardently advocating state 
rights whenever they were violated by what he thought was a wrong 
interpretation of the Constitution, but when it came to a test, he aligned 
himself heart and soul with the Federal government. He defended the 
Constitution and the Union and followed to the letter instructions from 
his commander in chief, the President of the United States. 

To Harry Lee’s credit not a man was killed on either side. Not one 
of his 15,000 troopers fired a shot against the frontiersmen in the blood- 
less campaign. The first attempt to defy the Constitution was halted. 
The rebellion was quieted by the mere appearance of the formidable 
army and by the restraint and discipline of Major General Lee. 

When Lee returned to Richmond, he found that Virginians did not 
approve of his course. Was he, after all, becoming a Federalist again in- 
stead of a state rights man? This question may have gone the rounds of 
the counties. In any event, Lee was no longer Virginia’s "Man of the 

Of more concern to him than either the condemnation or applause of 
his state, was the situation in his family. Both Ann and little Henry 
had been ill when he left them to command the western expedition. 
During the months of his absence, even though they were tenderly cared 
for at Shirley, they were still far from well. Again he had been forced 
to endure the same anguish of dread and apprehension he had so often 
suffered before. 

With the coming of the spring, Ann’s first child, a son, was born at 
Shirley on April 2, 1795. He was given the name of Algernon Sidney, 

13 The Lees of Virginia, by Burton J. Hendrick, p. 374, 375. 


a traditional ancestor of the Virginia Lees. The character and career 
of the soldier-statesman of seventeenth century England, that brave, 
resolute younger son of the Earl of Leicester, must have been held in 
peculiar veneration by Harry Lee and perhaps also by Ann. No refer- 
ence to Sidney has been found in their letters or papers, yet he exercised 
an influence upon Lee so direct and definite that Lee named two of his 
sons for the famous Captain of Horse. At the head of his regiment Sid- 
ney had led the gallant charge at Marston Moor. He had pursued ad- 
venture, loved the classics, resisted tyranny always, and died a martyr 
because of his beliefs. All this undoubtedly made a deep impression 
upon Harry Lee. There are strangely analogous points in the lives of the 
two men a century apart. 

Some time between 1795 and 1796 (the date is not recorded) Lee 
moved his family from Richmond to Stratford. Apparently this move 
was deferred as long as possible. For Harry Lee, the return to Stratford 
and its poignant associations with the past must have been a severe trial. 
But Stratford was his home and the home of Matilda’s children. The 
devoted Ann would not mind its solitude so long as he was with her. 

They had been there only perhaps a few months when, on August 9, 
1796, the baby died. "His mother preserved among her jewels, as more 
precious than them all, a rich curl of his golden hair.” 14 


u Life of General Henry Lee, by R. E. Lee. 


yO record of the family life at Stratford is available for more 
than a year after the death of Algernon Sidney Lee. In a brief 
letter to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee, on May 15, 1797, Ann men- 
tions having taken "a very fatiguing ride on horseback,” and in closing, 
expresses her "affectionate and unalterable attachment” to both Mrs. 
Lee and her husband. 

Apparently Colonel Harry did not return to the farming of the 
plantation with any degree of interest or success. Instead, he began to 
partition it further by selling certain tracts and portions of the original 
acreage not included in the deed of trust of 1790. The Chantilly tract, 
the home of his distinguished kinsman, Richard Henry Lee, was among 
these. After Richard Henry’s death in 1794, his house had been dis- 
mantled and razed to the ground. 

The Chantilly property was sold by Harry and Ann Lee, June 14, 
1797. The deed, recorded in the Westmoreland Court Papers Septem- 
ber 22, 1797, is as follows: 

Deed between Henry Lee and Ann his wife of County of Westmoreland of 
the one part and Josiah Watson of the Town of Alexandria County of Fairfax 
of the other part — - 

Whereas the Honourable Phil. Ludwell Lee, late of said County of West- 
moreland, dec’d was in his lifetime and at the time of his death siezed of a 
Large Estate and being so siezed departed this life intestate whereby the whole 
of his real estate descended unto his son and Heir-at-law Philip L. Lee who 
sometime after departed this life under the age of 21 yrs. by whose death the 
sd. Estate descended unto his Sisters Matilda who afterwards intermarried with 
Henry Lee and Flora who intermarried with Ludwell Lee and whereas the sd. 
Henry Lee and Matilda his wife and Ludwell Lee and Flora his wife did after- 
wards by an Indenture bearing date made partition and Division between 

them of the Real Estate which descended unto the said Matilda & Flora by the 
Death of their Brother &c — in which Partition among other parts of Land 
allotted unto sd. Ludwell & Flora was a tract of Land called "Chantilly” sup- 
posed to contain 500 Acres which said Land sd. Ludwell & Flora deeded for 
considerations therein named to sd. Henry Lee — Now this Indenture that sd. 
Henry Lee and Ann his wife doth sell unto Josiah Watson sd. tract called 
"Chantilly” &c. 

The Chantilly library, according to G. W. Beale, was moved to Strat- 
ford and Alexandria. It included a large collection of law books and 
historical works, valuable state and county papers, legal documents and 
original letters from officers of the Continental Army and statesmen of 
the Revolutionary period in England, France and the colonies, as well 

[ 283 ] 

The fruits and shades of Stratford. 



as much of the correspondence of the live Lee brothers of Stratford. 
Many of these important documents and books passed into the posses- 
sion of Richard Henry’s son, Ludwell Lee, and were placed in the li- 
brary of his house, Shuter’s Hill, Alexandria. 1 They formed the basis 
for the first biographies of Richard Henry and Arthur Lee, written a 
generation later by the son of Ludwell and Flora Lee, also named Rich- 
ard Henry. 

The rest of the Chantilly collection taken to Stratford was added by 
Harry Lee to his own historic letters, documents, and books, and those 
of President Lee and Philip Ludwell Lee. In later years these were to 
serve him in the compilation of his Memoirs and to contribute much 
source-information eventually used by his son Henry in certain of his 
books and Virginia sketches. Carter Lee refers to this collection which 
in his youth made Stratford Hall a shrine to Clio. 2 

On the eighth of November, 1798, Ann Lee gave birth to her second 
child, another son, whom she named Charles Carter for her dearly be- 
loved father. 

A pleasant picture is given a year later of the life of the family at 
Stratford. Ann’s joy in being completely alone with her husband and 
their little son made up to her— at that time — for the monotony of her 
isolated home. After Shirley, Stratford must have had the solitude of a 
monastery. Nevertheless, Ann Lee’s contentment is voiced in this well- 
known letter written February 18, 1799, to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee: 

... I wish you would write frequently to me my dear M rs Lee, and not 
regard the ceremony of receiving regularly my answers: every communication 
respecting your health and happiness, would at all times convey to me real 
satisfaction. I know nothing passing in your part of the Country, so you will 
have ample subject, in relating all the intelligence that your Neighbourhood 
and its environs can afford. So confined is the sphere in which I have moved 
for the last six months, that I am almost totally ignorant of every occurrence 
beyond the distance of fifteen or twenty miles, and excepting the friends who 
do, and always will retain their places in my memory, and in whose remem- 
brance I hope I shall exist, I may with much truth be said to live "The World 
forgetting, by the World forgot.” 

I have dined once at M r - Turners, and have spent a day and night at M r - 
Me. Carty’s, exclusive of these visits, I have not left home since August. How 
dull to you who live in a constant succession of visiting and being visited, must 
such a life appear? Yet I do not find it in the smallest degree tiresome: my 
hours pass too nimbly away — When in company, if agreeable company, I greatly 

1 This collection was removed later by Ludwell Lee to his new home, Belmont, Loudoun 
County, Virginia. A portion of it is now at Harvard College Library. 

2 Photostats of all original manuscripts of this Stratford collection are in the possession of 
Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc., and the Yale University Library. 



enjoy it: when alone my Husband and Child excepted, I am not sensible of 
the want of society — In them I have enough to make me cheerful and happy: 
Our scene will shortly be diversified by the marriage of Col°- Washington; his 
Lady elect has the reputation of being a charming Woman, and I reflect with 
pleasure on the improvement our Neighbourhood will receive from her 
residence. . . . Cannot you visit us in April my dear M rs - Lee, and prevail 
with M rs - Collins to accompany you? could you know how much happiness I 
should receive from seeing her here, I am sure you would use your influence to 
gratify me. We intend at present spending a part of the ensuing Summer at 
the Sweet Springs: in May we begin our tour; and if I do not see you before 
that time, I shall not till Autumn. 

And I confess a glimpse of your Ladyship would not be entirely disagreeable, 
but it must only be a glimpse, for you know how soon I become fatigued with 
your company — Besides I fear M rs - Collins will have left you, before I reach 
Sully, and my disappointment would be greater than I can express, in not seeing 
her before she quits Virginia. M r - Lee left home the day John Arrived, and as 
I expect his return on Wednesday, I think it best to detain John till then. His 
object was to visit some of the leading characters in Lancaster and the adjoin- 
ing Counties, to endeavour to obtain their interest in his election: so that I 
imagine he cannot be absent longer than he calculated on. I must now beg 
leave to introduce to your acquaintance my little Charles Carter, whom, from 
the s^pe/iahve beauty of his Father and Mother, you will conceive to be pos- 
sessed of a large portion, but alas! my dear, he inherits neither the charms of 
the one, nor the other — He is a little black eye’s, brown Boy; very healthy, 
good tempered, lively (and his Mother thinks) very sweet. — Kiss my dear 
Richard a thousand times for me, and do not suffer him to forget the melodious 
tune I used to delight him with. My dear M rs - Lee must be tired of my prating, 
I will relieve her, and conclude with offering my sincere love to M rs - Collins 
and M r - Lee, best wishes to the young Ladies, and beging her always to remem- 
ber how much she is beloved by her 

A. Lee. 

M r - George Lee is absent — I have done myself the pleasure of procuring the 
grafts M r R. Lee wrote for. You will receive three kinds of Plums, they are 
remarkably fine, particularly the red plum — 

A. L . 3 

The McCartys mentioned in this letter lived at Pope’s Creek, the 
plantation adjoining Stratford on its western area. They married into 
the Lee family later and several of their large land holdings passed 
into the hands of the Lees. 

Colonel Harry became more and more engrossed in politics. Not- 
withstanding the unpopularity of the Federalist Party in Virginia and 
his own unequivocal support of Federal measures, he was elected again 
to Congress in the spring of 1799, much to his and Ann’s gratification. 

“Richard Bland Lee Papers, 1700-1825, Library of Congress. 



Washington, always his friend and supporter, was actively interested 
in his campaign and rode to the polls in Montross to cast his vote for 
Lee. The open support of the President of the United States helped 
bring Lee the large majority vote as recorded in Virginia Westmoreland 
County Records for 1799: Poll for representatives to Congress and 

member to the State legislature for the County of Westmoreland taken 
the 24th day of April 1799. Candidates for Congress H. Lee — W. Jones. 
Votes: H. Lee — 233; W. Jones 47.” 

The prospect of a winter in Philadelphia delighted Ann, and for her 
stepdaughter, Lucy Grymes, it was equally a source of great expecta- 
tions. After the visit to the Sweet Springs, the family journeyed north- 
ward, reaching Philadelphia in time for the opening of the Sixth Con- 

Philadelphia, during the last six or eight years of the eighteenth 
century, was a far different city from what it was in earlier decades. It 
was crowded with new people, new faces. More foreign legations were 
established and many new members appointed to the old embassies. 
With the coming of hundreds of refugees from Paris and from Port-au- 
Prince, the sober Quaker and Presbyterian environment had yielded to 
gay, bright foreign airs and graces. 

Watson, an eye-witness of what he terms this "strange state of our 
society,” writes in his Annals of Philadelphia: 

About this time, almost every vessel arriving here brought fugitives from 
the infuriated negroes in Port au Prince, or the sharp axe of the guillotine in 
Paris, dripping night and day with the blood of Frenchmen, shed in the name 
of liberty, equality, and the (sacred) rights of man. Our city thronged with 
French people of all shades from the colonies and those from Old France, 
giving it the appearance of one great hotel, or place of shelter for strangers 
hastily collected together from a raging tempest. 

. . . French boarding houses (pension Frangaise,) multiplied in every street. 
The one at the south east corner of Race and Second streets, having some 40 
windows, was filled with colonial French to the garret windows, whistling 
and jumping about, fiddling and singing, as fancy seemed to suggest, like so 
many crickets and grasshoppers. Groups of both sexes were to be seen seated 
on chairs, in summer weather, forming semi-circles near the doors, so dis- 
played as sometimes to render it necessary to step into the street to get along; — 
their tongues, shoulders and hands in perpetual motion, jabbering away, "all 

talkers and no hearers.” Instrumental music abounded in the citv 

every where, by day as well as by night, from French gentleman (may be) 
amateurs, on the hautboy, violin and clarionet, exquisitely played — and seem- 
ingly intended to catch the attention of neighboring fair ones, at opposite 


To many Philadelphians the French were like "play actors.” Their 
presence actually gave an impetus to the local stage. Seldom had there 
been tragedies and comedies in the Walnut Street theatre in such rapid 

The Lee family took lodgings in Franklin Court, in the fashionable 
section of the city below Washington Square and not far from the old 
Congress Hall on Fourth Street. A few doors away from their apart- 
ments were those of their old Richmond friend and neighbor, John 
Marshall, now one of Lee’s colleagues in the Congress. Close by was 
Shippen House, where a few years before, Colonel Harry and Matilda 
had been so often entertained by their hospitable kinspeople. But now 
the house was closed, and the family sadly broken up. Thomas Lee 
Shippen, whom Ann knew so pleasantly in days gone by at Shirley, 
Westover, and Nesting, was dying, and his wife, Ann’s old friend Betsy 
Farley, was with him in South Carolina. Tom’s sister, Nancy, Mrs. 
Henry Beekman Livingston, separated from her husband, was no longer 
in society, and with her young daughter had moved away from Fourth 
Street, few knew where. 

Yet the Lees found in Philadelphia many of their old friends, rela- 
tives and connections from Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina. 
And with the opening of the Congress what a succession of dinners, teas, 
parties, balls, lectures, concerts! By comparison with Richmond, at that 
period so small, crude, and provincial a town, Philadelphia was to Ann’s 
eye a great city. Ann Lee, being twenty-six and never before away from 
Virginia, must have had the same zest and excitement that young Lucy 
Grymes had. 

Even the routine of shopping had a sense of adventure. The dry- 
goods stores by the Delaware displayed bright colored dimities, muslins, 
gauzes, slippers, shoes, bonnets, caps and hats of enormous size imported 
from England. Such gorgeous display could never be seen in Richmond 
or Williamsburg — or indeed in any city except in Philadelphia. 

A few weeks after the Lees’ arrival, news of a public calamity reached 
the city- — the death of General Washington. Lee was on his way to 
Congress when he heard the report, but immediately returned to his 
lodgings and wrote a set of resolutions to offer Congress. 

According to the Annals of The Congress of the United States of 
December 19, 1799, Marshall announced the death of General Wash- 
ington to the House and at the same time offered the following resolu- 



That this House wait on the President of the United States in condolence of 
this national calamity. That the Speaker’s chair be shrouded with black, and 
that the members and officers of the House wear mourning, during the session. 

That a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to report measures suit- 
able to the occasion, and expressive of the profound sorrow with which Con- 
gress is penetrated at the loss of a citizen, first in war, first in peace, and first in 
the hearts of his countrymen. 

That when this House adjourns, it will adjourn until Monday next . 4 

Marshall, Lee, and others were appointed on the committee, jointly 
with the Senate delegates, "for the purpose expressed in the third reso- 
lution.” This committee decided that a marble mausoleum to contain 
the body of their illustrious chief should be erected in the new Federal 
capital, the city of Washington. 

On Monday, December 23, John Marshall reported this action of the 
joint committees as to "what testimony of respect ought to be paid to 
the memory of the man . . and he repeated Lee’s phrases soon to 
become history, "the man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the 
hearts of his countrymen.” 

Speaking in behalf of the committee’s proposed plan, Lee said: 

In executing the task assigned to the committee, it will be observed much 
remains to be done; so far as they have gone, and as far as they may go, one 
hope is to be cherished, that whatever is done, will be unanimously adopted. 

This will be pleasing to our constituents and most honorable to the char- 
acter we all honor. Out of a wish to execute in the best manner the direction 
of the House, a difference of opinion will naturally prevail. This difference of 
opinion however commendable, upon ascertaining the mode of public mourn- 
ing, ought to be suspended when we come to act, for unanimity then is, as I 
before stated, most to be wished for, whether the feelings of our constituents, 
or our intentions, or the celebrity which all desire to give to the high occasion, 

The action was then unanimously agreed upon and the first step taken 
in the launching of the Washington Monument. On the following day, 
which was Christmas Eve, the Annals record that the House was in- 
formed that "The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House 
of Representatives had requested Major General Henry Lee ... to 
prepare and deliver a funeral oration . . . and that Mr. Lee had been 
pleased to accept of the appointment.” In requesting Lee to give the 
funeral oration as one of the representatives from the State of Virginia, 
his close friendship with Washington was officially recognized and the 

4 That Harry Lee was author of these Resolutions is stated by John Marshall. It is also re- 
ferred to in Notes on History of Washington Monument Taken From The Dedicatory Address 
of Honorable W. W. Corcoran. First Vice-President of the Washington Monument Association, 
Feb. 21, 1885, pp. 12-21. 



devotion and unswerving loyalty he had given to Washington’s prin- 
ciples and practices. 

A reference to Philadelphia’s sentiment on that Christmas Day of 
1799 is written by a Quaker girl, Elizabeth Drinker, in her journal: 

Dec. 25. There is to be great doings tomorrow by way of respect to General 
Washington’s memory; a funeral procession, an oration, or an eulogium to be 
delivered by Henry Lee, a member of Congress from Virginia. The members 
of Congress are to be in deep mourning; the citizens generally to wear crape 
round their arms, for six months. Congress-hall is in mourning, and even the 
Play-house; there has been and like to be, much said and done on the occa- 
sion. I was sorry to hear of his death, and many others who make no show. 
Those forms to be sure, are out of our way, but many will join in ye form 
that cared little about him. 

Elizabeth Drinker’s second entry, December 27th, is: 

The funeral procession in honor of the late Commander-in-Chief of the 
Armies of the United States, Lieut. Gen. George Washington, yesterday took 
place. They assembled at the State-house — went from thence in grand proces- 
sion to ye Dutch Church, called Zion church in Fourth street, where Major 
Gen. Henry Lee delivered an oration to 4000 persons, or near that number, 
who were, ’tis said, within the church. Ye concourse of people in the streets, 
and at ye windows was very enormous. . . . 

Standing before his colleagues of the two Houses of Congress and a 
large concourse of Philadelphia’s citizens, assembled in the church, 
Light-Horse Harry Lee began: 

In obedience to your will, I rise, your humble organ, with the hope of execut- 
ing a part of the system of public mourning which you have been pleased to 
adopt, commemorative of the death of the most illustrious and most beloved 
personage this country has ever produced. . . . 

The founder of our federate republic — our bulwark in war, our guide in 
peace, is no more! . . . His fame survives! bounded only by the limits of the 
earth, and by the extent of the human mind. He survives in our heart — in the 
growing knowledge of our children — in the affection of the good throughout 
the world. And when our monuments shall be done away; when nations now 
existing shall be no more; when even our young and far-spreading empire 
shall have perished; still will our Washington’s glory unfaded shine, and die 
not, until love of virtue cease on earth, or earth itself sinks into chaos! . . . 

Who is there that has forgotten the vales of Brandywine, the fields of Ger- 
mantown, or the plains of Monmouth? Every where present, wants of every 
kind obstructing, numerous and valiant armies encountering, himself a host, he 
assuaged our sufferings, limited our privations, and upheld our tottering re- 
public. . . . 

Possessing a clear and penetrating mind, a strong and sound judgment, calm- 
ness and temper for deliberation, with invincible firmness and perserverance in 
resolutions maturely formed; drawing information from all; acting from 



himself, with incorruptible integrity and unvarying patriotism; his own su- 
periority and the public confidence alike marked him as the man designed by 
Heaven to lead in the great political as well as military events which have 
distinguished the era of his life. ... To realize the vast hopes to which our 
revolution had given birth, a change of political system became indispensable. 
How novel, how grand the spectacle! Independent States stretched over an 
immense territory, and known only by common difficulty, clinging to their 
union as the rock of their safety; deciding, by frank comparison of their relative 
condition, to rear on that rock, under the guidance of reason, a common gov- 
ernment, through whose commanding protection, liberty and order, with their 
long tram of blessings, should be safe to themselves, and the sure inheritance 
of their posterity. . . . 

Commencing his administration, what heart is not charmed with the recol- 
lection of the pure and wise principles announced by himself, as the basis of 
his political life? He best understood the indissoluble union between virtue 
and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of 
an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity 
and individual felicity. Watching with an equal and comprehensive eye over 
this great assemblage of communities and interests, he laid the foundations of 
our national policy in the unerring, immutable principles of morality, based 
on religion, exemplifying the pre-eminence of a free government by all the 
attributes which win the affections of its citizens, or command the respect of 
the world. . . . 

First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was 
second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, 
humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his ex- 
ample was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example 
lasting. . . . 

Methinks I see his august image, and hear, falling from his venerable lips, 
these deep sinking words: 

"Cease, Sons of America, lamenting our separation. Go on, and confirm by 
your wisdom the fruits of our joint councils, joint efforts, and common dangers. 
Reverence religion; diffuse knowledge throughout your land; patronize the arts 
and sciences; let liberty and order be inseparable companions; control party 
spirit, the bane of free government; observe good faith to, and cultivate peace 
with all nations.” . . . 

On this same day, Friday, December 27, the journals of the Congress 

The House of Representatives of the United States, highly gratified with the 
manner in which Mr. Lee has performed the service assigned to him under the 
resolution desiring the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of 
Representatives to request one of the members of Congress to prepare and 
deliver a funeral oration on the death of George Washington ; and desirous 
of communicating to their fellow-citizens, through the medium of the press, 
those sentiments of respect for the character, of the gratitude for the services, 



and of grief for the death of that illustrious personage, which, felt by all, have 
on this melancholy occasion, been so well expressed: 

Resolved, That the Speaker present the thanks of the House to Mr. Lee, 
for the oration delivered by him to both Houses of Congress on Thursday, the 
twenty-sixth instant; and request that he will permit a copy thereof to be taken 
for publication. 

In sending these resolutions to Lee, Theodore Sedgwick wrote: 

Philadelphia, Dec. 27, 1799- 

Dear Sir: The enclosed resolutions, which unanimously passed the House 
of Representatives this day, will make known to you how highly they have 
been gratified with the manner in which you have performed the service as- 
signed to you, in preparing and delivering a funeral oration on the death of 
General Washington. That our constituents may participate in the gratifica- 
tion we have received, from your having so well expressed those sentiments 
of respect for the character, of gratitude for the services, and of grief for the 
death of that illustrious personage. I flatter myself you will not hesitate to 
comply with the request of the House, by furnishing a copy of your oration, 
to be taken for publication. 

Allow me, while performing this pleasing task of official duty in com- 
municating an act of the Representatives of the People, so just to you and so 
honorable to themselves, to embrace the opportunity to declare that I am, 
personally, with great esteem and sincere regard, dear sir, your friend and 
obedient servant, 

Theodore Sedgwick. 

The Hon. Maj. Gen. Lee. 

To this letter Lee replied: 

Franklin Court, Dec. 28, 1799- 

Dear Sir: I owe to the goodness of the House of Representatives the honor 
which their resolutions confer on my humble efforts to execute their wish. 

I can never disobey their will, and therefore will furnish a copy of the ora- 
tion delivered on the late afflicting occasion, much as I had flattered myself 
with a different disposition of it. 

Sincerely reciprocating the personal considerations with which you honor 
me, I am, very respectfully, sir, your friend and obedient servant, 

Henry Lee. 3 

The Speaker of the House of Reps. 

Little more than a week later Lee took emphatic position in behalf of 
better organized national defense. As Chairman of the Committee to 
Report on Alterations of the Militia Bill he said: ”... the history of 
man, from the beginning of the world to this day . . . maintains the 
folly of placing the defence of a nation on what we call militia only. . . . 

"But when you regard the army as part of a general system of defence, 
when you regard it as indicative of the public spirit, it must have its 

Tetter, Henry Lee to Sedgwick, Debates and Proceedings 6th Congress, col. 222-223. 



proportional influence . . . and when you view it as the rallying point 
of our militia, in case of invasion, 14,000 well disciplined, well-ap- 
pointed troops would not be found an inconsiderable obstruction.. . 

Meanwhile, the bill for erecting a mausoleum for George Washing- 
ton, the motion for which, at Lee’s earnest plea, had unanimously 
passed the House, was meeting with stout opposition. On May 10, it 
passed the House by a vote of fiftv-four to nineteen. But John Randolph 
was a powerful opponent. Two days later the Senate postponed con- 
sideration of the bill until the next session. Lee had reason to be much 
concerned, and when Congress reconvened the following November, 
he led the movement for the Washington Monument. 


When Congress adjourned, the Lees returned to Westmoreland. 
Ann’s younger brother, Bernard Moore Carter, was a frequent guest at 
Stratford at this time. Lucy, then about fifteen, was the only daughter 
of the house. She was a graceful, slender girl with brilliant black eyes 
and aristocratic features. Though she was not the beauty her mother, 
Matilda, had been, her portrait indicates that as a young girl she was 
strikingly attractive. Ann’s brother found her so, and they became 
engaged to be married. 

On the nineteenth of June, 1800, Ann’s first daughter was born, and 
named Ann Kinloch— the middle name being in honor of one of the 
family’s friends of the Shirley household years ago. How Carter re- 
joiced in that baby sister! At last he was to have a playmate near his 
own age. The little fellow was devotedly attached to Bernard Carter 
and also to his half-brother, but Henry was twelve years older than 
Carter. As for Lucy Grymes, she was always "grown up” to the little 
boy. And now she was planning to marry "Uncle Bernard.” 

Although no records describe the ceremony or even the date or place, 
it undoubtedly occurred at Stratford sometime that summer; and Colonel 
Harry probably gave Lucy "a big wedding.” It was the last wedding of 
a daughter of the Stratford Lees. One of the wedding presents from 
Charles Carter of Shirley to his son, Bernard, and his bride was Wood- 
stock, a beautiful country seat in Fauquier County, where thev estab- 
lished their home. There was, however, according to Lucy’s mind but 
one place in the world to live; and that was not in the country in Vir- 
ginia, but in the city of Philadelphia. She endured the country as long 

“Speech by Henry Lee against bill for reduction of the army, Jan. 8, 1800. Debates and 
Proceedings Congress, col. 274, 275. 



as she could, and then, in order to live in Philadelphia, she threatened to 
set fire to Woodstock and burn it to the ground. The threat was evi- 
dently effective, for Lucy eventually realized her desire for a home in 

According to the family account Lucy was highly temperamental, 
fond of excitement, variety, and new, interesting people. 'Tve been ac- 
customed to live with my father and brother,” she said, "such charming 
men! How could I stand Bernard Carter? He is the handsomest man I 
ever saw, but such a fool!” 

Many of Lucy’s letters survive, but in them she never mentions the life 
at Stratford or her stepmother Ann Lee . 7 

When the Stratford baby, Ann Kinloch, was about four months old, 
her mother renewed the interrupted correspondence with her dear 
Elizabeth Collins Lee of Sully, explaining why she had been so long 
out of touch: 

. . . Many of my friends (and you among others I find) have supposed that 
when in Philadelphia I ought to have loved, thought of, and written to them 
as usual; but my dear you must all learn to know me better when I visit gay 
City’s: it was unreasonable to imagine I could find leisure to remember Coun- 
try friends while immersed in the pleasures of a City life. — And now I think 
you are more vexed with me than ever, but tranquillize your little Ladyship 
and believe what is literally true, that while in your charming Philadelphia I 
was not Mistress of my time, and since my return to Virginia, have been con- 
stantly very much indisposed till lately. . . . 


The next session of the Sixth Congress met in the city of Washington 
on the Potomac. The power of the Federalists was waning fast. For 
every measure Harry Lee espoused he had to fight practically single- 
handed. It is doubtful that Ann was with him that winter. With a 
six-months-old baby and a two-year-old son to care for, it was hardly 
probable that Ann would have left Stratford to bring the children to 
live in some cramped, uncomfortable lodgings in a city under con- 
struction. Besides this, the family would incur expenses her husband 
could not afford. Ann was now beginning to consider gravely this as- 
pect of their lives. 

7 The tradition that Lucy set fire to Woodstock became in time accepted as fact but her 
niece, Mrs. Mildred Lee Francis, denies its occurrence. In a letter dated to the author, April 27, 
1936, Mrs. Francis says: “Lucy Lee Carter, Harry Lee’s daughter, did not burn down her house 
in Woodstock nor any other house she may have had. The life at Woodstock was very dull and 
she was anxious to leave the place, and she may have made impatient threats to burn the house 
if Mr. Bernard Carter insisted on remaining at Woodstock. I heard this denial of Mrs. Carter’s 
responsibility for the fire from an old lady who knew everything that had happened in Virginia 
and who, though always wishing to tell the truth, was in no way inclined to defend Mrs. Carter.” 



With his characteristic fervor, Lee was subordinating everything in 
his personal or family life to his one purpose of establishing the na- 
tional memorial to Washington, which he had worked for in the pre- 
ceding session. He had been responsible for the memorial to General 
Greene. To Washington, who was in his mind the superior of all men, 
a monument should be raised commensurate with his incomparable 
service to the country. At the time when Lee’s resolution providing for 
the marble mausoleum had unanimously passed the House, the news 
of the death of Washington had just reached Philadelphia. A year later 
the political opponents of the first President regretted their enthusiasm 
and refused to vote the necessary appropriation. Marshall said: 

That the great events of the political as well as the military life of General 
Washington should be commemorated, could not be pleasing to those who 
had condemned, and who continued to condemn, the whole course of his ad- 

Meanwhile consent for the removal of her husband’s body from 
Mount Vernon had been obtained from Mrs. Washington. But matters 
were at a standstill and complications began to develop in both the 
House and Senate. The disillusioning record appears in the Journals of 
1800-1801. As Lee described the situation to Washington’s secretary, 
Tobias Lear, he found that securing the necessary appropriation would 
be "a difficult business, infinitely more so than you or I thought.” 

The cause was Lee’s not only because he was chairman of the me- 
morial committee but also, and chiefly, because he worshipped General 
Washington. He knew from a lifetime’s association the high character 
and the self-sacrifice of the man to whom the American people were 
so deeply indebted. Every -word Lee had spoken in his funeral address 
came from his heart. No personal defeat so nearly crushed his spirit as 
the loss of his fight for the memorial to Washington. That this defeat 
was only temporary he had no means of knowing. On March 3, the 
Senate voted to pass over the bill "until December next.” Inasmuch as 
Lee’s political star was setting and he was likely not to reenter public 
life, he would not again be enabled to work for this cause. He never 
knew that the idea was also in the minds of others and would eventually 
be revived and wrought into marble; that many years after his death 
his dream would come true. Yet how few today remember that the 
Washington Monument had first root in the imagination and the spirit 
of Light-Horse Harry Lee. So in stone and in imperishable words has 
he paid tribute to the man whom he described as "first in war, first in 
peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” 



D URING the summer of 1802 the Stratford family again went on 
"a Northern tour” as Carter Lee describes the trip. He was four 
years old and his sister, Ann, eighteen months younger. They 
drove overland in their coach and four, first to Alexandria and then 
by the old stage road to Philadelphia and New York. 

Only dire necessity could have prompted this long, rough journey at 
such a time, for Ann Lee was expecting the birth of her fourth child 
within a very few months. Colonel Harry was without the promise of 
any political appointment with its certainty of income, however slight, 
and his personal business and semi-public development enterprises were 
halted for lack of money. There was always the hope of raising fresh 
capital in the north, or at least of collecting old loans from friends 
whom he had helped in the past. Severe as the ordeal threatened to be 
for his wife, the alternative of leaving her and the children alone at 
Stratford was worse. In the face of his former tragic experiences it was 
not to be thought of. 

Difficult and disappointing as the results proved to be to Ann and 
Harry Lee, the journey was a series of magical events to their son Carter. 
There was his adventure with a chimney sweep, a queer black imp 
from the nether world suddenly emerging from the chimney of the 
dressing room of their lodgings in Philadelphia! Then in the strange, 
faraway foreign city of New York, in palaces, as he termed the theatres, 
to which his father took him, he saw real live "Kings & Queens.” The 
most extraordinary event of the entire journey was the coming of a baby 

Years afterwards Carter wrote of it all. Unknown to anyone, his 
original manuscript, just as it was hurriedly composed, remained for 
over two generations at the bottom of an old trunk in the home of one 
of his descendants living in a remote section of Virginia. These remi- 
niscences were perhaps written in the closing years of Carter Lee’s long 

At present I am engaged about the scenes on the earliest dawn of permanent 

It is among the very interesting regions of mental philosophy. At the period 
I now speak of I was four years old, as I gather from the record of the birth of 
a brother, who was born during a Northern tour of my parents, made in their 
coach & four. & who was named Smith from the hospitable family, in whose 
house he was born. Of the incidents of that tour I have but two distinct 
recollections. One was of seeing the coach horses let down in the hole of a 
vessil. . . . 

[ 296 ] 



The next is of being dreadfully scared by the hurtling down from the chim- 
ney in the room where I was dressing, in Philadelphia, of a chimney-sweep, 
whose sooty costume & begrimed aspect, made me, doubtless confound him 
with those imps, with which the stories of our nurses, fill the imaginations 
of children they would control by fears of them. My father was fortunately 
present, who soon relieved me from my alarm. He carried me every where 
with him, that he could with propriety, & among other places to the Theatre, 
& I remember bragging when I got home of having seen Kings & Queens in 
my Northern travels, which I sincerely thought I had done; & it was many 
years before I became ware, that it was the representations of these dignitaries 
on the stage, & not their majesties themselves, that I had gazed on with such 
admiration. When long afterwards, in reading Shakespeare, I first came to 
the line, A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!’’ I recollected it as dis- 
tinctly as seeing our coach horses deposited in the hole of a vessil, & yet, 
strange to say, I can recall no distinct recollection of a theatrical exploit of mv 
own, about the time of my adventure with the chimney-sweep, & which, from 
a narration of it, I have heard an hundred times, was calculated to make an 
impression on my memory as lasting as vivid. It seems, that among the plays 
my father took me to see, was "Venice Preserved,” & that when Jaffier of- 
fered to kill his wife, I started up in the Box whose position was conspicuous, 
& exclaimed in a most menacing attitude to Jaffier — "You shan't kill that 
lady!” The applauses of the whole Theatre were deafening, as I have always 
been told, — the Actors as well as the audience being delighted with the com- 
plete illusion which their art effected in the most unsophisticated of their spec- 
tators. . . . 

It was probably October or November before the Lees turned home- 
ward. Then they went, as Carter tells, by boat instead of driving over- 
land. The baby he mentions was born on September second, evidently 
an earlier date than expected, when the family was passing through 
New Jersey. During Ann Lee’s confinement, she and her family were 
the guests of friendly strangers by the name of Smith, living near Cam- 
den. So profound was the gratitude of Ann and her husband for the 
aid and courtesy given them that they named their new son after this 
hospitable family. Sidney, the name of their first born who had died, 
was added, being also the name of the British hero so honored in the 
Lee family history. But all his life Sidney Smith Lee was known as 
Smith Lee . 1 

'“When Virginia withdrew from the Union Smith Lee served the Southern Navy throughout 
the war. No one who ever saw him can forget his charming personality and grace of manner. 
He was popular with men and beloved of women, to whom he was ever chivalrous and courte- 
ous. His service in the United States Navy was at a time of great importance. He sailed 
through many seas, and was with Commodore Perry in Tanan when that country was opened to 
the commerce of the world. He served the South as faithfully and unselfishly as he had previ- 
ously served the whole country. He died shortly after the Civil War, and was buried in 
Christ Church Cemetery at the southwest of the town.” The History of Old Alexandria. Vir- 
ginia, Powell, 1928, p. 247. 

East passage leading from the Great Hall to the Mother’ s Room. 



Back again at Stratford, the affairs of the family in the Great House 
steadily became more complicated. Each year the Lees grew poorer and 
their obligations greater. Colonel Harry’s former high political offices 
had always meant more prestige and credit than cash. But scant as the 
reimbursement for official services had been, it had meant a certainty 
of a small income more or less regularly. Now it looked as if all 
chance for even this had gone. 

Times must have been equally hard for the Stratford tenants. In view 
of Carter’s account of the dependence of these families upon his parents, 
it appears unlikely that they were able to pay rent and that any of the 
various farms of the Stratford Plantation brought in an income to help 
sustain the estate. The steady planting of tobacco for generations had 
impoverished all the arable lands. Even had there been a market for 
Westmoreland tobacco, as there was not in the early 1800 ’s, tobacco 
could scarcely have been grown at Stratford then. Nor could any other 
saleable product in sufficient quantity be produced that would even 
pay for itself. To get money out of Stratford there was need to put 
money into it. And not a dollar was available. To "live on credit” was 
the prevailing custom for many southern families, a custom execrable 
from Ann Lee’s point of view and her rigid standards, to all of which in 
time her husband came to subscribe — but not until too late. 

As master of Stratford, Harry Lee no doubt felt that he was obliged 
to dispense hospitality whether he had an income or not. Certainly he 
and Ann were forced, in spite of themselves, to continue to carry re- 
sponsibility for their tenants as for their own children, and some of 
their kin. Probably not even Ann realized the real situation of Harrv 
Lee’s finances. 

In this period of his childhood, Carter gives an insight into the family 
life at Stratford and of his mother’s character. No denial was ever 
given, Carter says, "of the favours solicited by the tenants at Stratford 
from the family in the Great House.” 

. . . & I rejoic[e] now, though I sometiemes grumbled then, at the part I had 
to enact in them. The tea & sugar & light bread, or other viand deemed good 
for the patient, were considered safer in my hands than in those of the 
servants, & I was often made the bearer of them. Besides, it was very pleasing 
to my parents that I should be their minister of charity. I can imagine how mv 
mother was charmed to think that what I wa[s] doing to the least of these I 
was doing unt[o] Him, who did all for us. And these little missions though 
often unwillingly begun ended generally, if not always, very pleasantly. For 
I was always affectionately received, & usually rewarded with an egg, or sweet 
potato, roasted for me at once; or with an apple or peach, or some chestnuts. 



according to the season of my visi[t], And I am sure that these charities of 
my parents, have been visited in blessing on their then unappreciative agent. 
They taught me early the pleasures of these interchanges of kindness, — how 
pleasing it was to make a heart glad, & how the reflection of that gladness on 
one’s own heart, was sweeter from the poorer, because intenser. Besides they 
made me early acquainted with the pleasures of those humble dwellings, to 
which I have been indebted for so many of the compensations of life in the 
wilderness. . . . 

I remember (how my full, in affection, though half in blood, brother, Henry 
(nearly twelve years my senior) used to amuse himself with their wanton 
violations of the rules of grammer, one of which was a very often reputed 
announcement of the approach of a most interesting event, made in the most 
decorous manner. In those days the tenants did not send for Doctors for their 
sick, unless advised to do so by the folks at the Great House, to whom they 
always came first for advice & remidies. Of course, the first question put by 
my mother, — for twas to her they came in my days, at Stratford, — was 'who 
is sick?” The answer very often was, "My wife Madam.” "Well, what is the 
matter with her?” To which the reply was, almost as often — "Her situation 
are obvious Madam; — ” which was their delicate method of [telling] that his 
dearer half was about to encounter those perils of her sex, for a safe deliver- 
ance from which our Litany so properly prays. 

[their] grammatical blunders . . . certainly caused no denial of the 

favours solicited. . . . 

Here Carter makes another brief excursion into extraneous matters 
but comes back in a page or two to his mother and Stratford: 

I must recur to the time when she [woman] was playing angel to me as a 
mother, & a dear, bright, blackeyed rosy cheeked little sister, eighteen months 
younger than myself — We were devoted companions & I remember the joys 
we shared in our first joint possession. It was a henhouse, which our mother 
had built & stock[ed] for us, & which was adorned, at our special request with 
a beautiful white rumpless pullet. O how clean we kept that hen-house, how 
well we fed the fowls, & how delightedly we watched the first that went in 
to lay an (egg in the nests we made with our own hands!) And seldom had 
we heard music so delightful as the cackle with which she announced the per- 
formance of that to us, most interesting feat. And to crown all, it was the 
favourite rumpless, which set this excellent example to the other pullets, And 
afterwards, came music even more delightful, & certainly more tender, in the 
chirp of the first chicken, with its head scarcely protruded from its shell. 
Wordsworth’s "Curious child, who dwelt upon a tract, of island ground,” 
when he placed "at his ear The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell,” & 
thought he discovered in its "sonorous cadences” "Mysterious union with its 
native sea,” yet found no such joy in these fancied voices of its mighty mother, 
as we did in the chirps of that chicken in his natal shell. But I cannot add — - 
with Wordsworth; "Even such a shell the universe itself is to the ear of faith.” 
Our little chicken-case told nothing to the ear of our simple faith, except that 
about a dozen more pipped ones would soon release the heads of their little 



captives, to swell their first born notes into a chorus, more & more to charm us. 

. . . Of course, my darling sister & myself had no reflections of this kind, 
but rejoiced in the "rattle” & were "tickled with the straw,” which as gifts 
appropriate to our ages, of divine love, were talismans of delight. 

Carter refers to the visits they received from the Carters and other 
neighbors in their coaches and four: 

... 1 suppose such visits made greater sensations then on the children of 
the households than now, because of the ' good things” the children were then 
allowed to have only a taste of. In these times of the sinful indulgence of 
parents to every whim of their children, it will scarcely be believed that in my 
childhood, they were never allowed to ask for any thing at table, under 
the penalty of never having what they asked for. At Shirley, where there was 
always a crowd of children, in my childhood there, we sat at a side table, & the 
food deemed best for us was sent to us. After that was dispatched, we were 
asked what we would have, & if not injurious, it was given to us; but it was a 
well established & well known rule that if we cried for any thing we should 
never have it. ’Twas early instilled into us that momentary enjoyment was 
never to be indulged in at the expense of permanent good. What was best 
for us was more regarded than what was most agreeable to us. Over indulgence 
subjected its unfortunate subject, not only to the normal effects of it, but to the 

almost as normal consequence, ridicule "Honour thy father & thy 

mother” were not then mere words to be idly repeated in the Catacism every 
Sunday, but the fifth in the commandments of God, & the next in sanctity, as 
the next in order, to those more immediately concerning Himself. Is it then so 
wonderful that our Revolutionary worthies, being thus brought up, with Wash- 
ington at their head, should have been so wonderfully good as well as great? 

Nor did this discipline, which would now seem so harsh diminish, but greatly 
increased the enjoyments of its subjects. What the children called good 
things,” were then rarities, & were proportionately enjoyed. Now they are so 
common, & the little dyspeptics (made such by extravagant indulgence in them) 
are so cloyed with their sweets, that they have lost their savour to a great ex- 
tent. But during my childhood, when company came to Stratford, the good 
things” added to our ordinary fare, especially in the way of "desserts,” were 
very charming to the children. And the new faces & affectionate greetings of 
our visitors received an additional charm from their comparative rarity, & the 
livery of their servants & beautiful gaiety of their horses, were to us in our 
retired lives, almost what Circuses & Operas are to the prematurely blazeed 
Juviniles of our large cities. 

In those early days I learned to play chess. My father & mother were pro- 
ficient in the game, & I was so absorbed in its attractions, as to forget the 
pain attendant upon shedding my first teeth, while playing it, & my father & 
mother were fond of adminstering this intellectual remedy for that physical 
pain. The consequence was that I became such an adept at the game, that I 
could not bear to play with such inferior players, as were habitual visitors at 
Stratford. One of them, therefore, paid me to play with him, & others bet at 
the game with me, the sums that such payments enabled me to stake. The 



consequence was that, the very first day of this gambling, I went triumphantly 
to my mother, with a handful of coppers & fourpences, boasting of the earnings 
of my superior skill. But what was my mortification, to be met with a preremp- 
tory order of my mother, to return instantly to the loosers all my spoils, — my 
”s polio” prima, if not "opinio ” — as wages of iniquity which I must never touch 
as long as I lived. The gentlemen remonstrated when they met my mother, — 
saying that they paid very cheaply for instruction in a game, which they were 
anxious to learn, & which I was so well able to teach them; but my pious mother 
was inexorable — -"Gentlemen, I wish my son never to bet.” 

Besides recording in prose, descriptions of certain of the architectural 
features of Stratford Hall and giving his childhood impressions and 
recollections of the place and events of the family history, Carter Lee 
also wrote of them in verse. Through his maze of awkward rhyme it is 
possible to see actual details of life at Stratford and exact pictures of the 
grandeur and beauty of the place. He versifies berry picking with his 
sister Ann; 

Yes even now, methinks I see 

My sister, busy as the bee 

In picking from the wild vine, berries; 

Her cheeks in colour, like the cherries, 

Her bonnet fixed with many a pin 
Lest the warm sun should tinge her skin, 

Which glowed as alabaster white, 

More lovely for her black eyes’ light. 

We boys without our hats would run, 

All careless of the burning sun, 

Barefooted over stone & briar 
Through scorching sand, or mud & mire, 

And every one ashamed would be, 

To ask the others, 'wit for me’! 

Happy, Happy then were we! 

Our father’s & our mother’s joys, 

Their daughter fair, & sunburnt boys . . . 

He described "sweet Stratford’s woodland scenes,” the play of the 
squirrels in the "luxuriant length” of the green boughs, the mourning 
of the turtle dove, the scream of the eagle on the cliffs, the howl of the 
wolf. He tells of "flower enameled lands,” "sunny lanes,” "forest’s 
shades,” the streams, and the far sound of the waterfall — all of which 
are clear and faithful transcriptions of the place. 


Carter’s bright picture of life in the Great House is that seen through 
a small boy’s eyes. His parents were facing one far different. The in- 



ability of Robert Morris to repay the forty thousand dollars Lee had lent 
him so long before, brought its logical train of tragic consequences to 
Lee and his family. Obligations pledged from this expected fund could 
not be met by Lee, and thus he became publicly discredited. He had no 
money with which to pay bills, notes to friends and relatives, or taxes 
on his large and widely scattered properties. Deed after deed for sales 
was brought to Ann for her signature in her husband’s frantic and often 
ill-judged efforts to sell, mortgage, trade or convey such lands and 
houses as were left him in order to secure cash to keep his family from 
want. Stratford and the Loudoun County lands alone he could not 
touch. The Great House was his home for as long as he lived, but he 
had a life interest only. Matilda’s son, Henry, was the legal heir. 

Among many parcels of land sold at a sacrifice, Thomas Boyd men- 
tions the hundred acres of valuable property within the District of 
Richmond in Henrico County. He records how in July, 1803, when a 
note of fifteen thousand dollars came due to Alexander Spotswood for 
land, Lee was without funds to pay it. And Spotswood sued him at 
Spotsylvania Courthouse, where it was ordered that Lee produce the 
sum of ӣ3231. 19s with interest at 5 per centum per annum from July 
1, 1802, till paid on or before December 1 Next” or be "barred and 
foreclosed from all equity of redemption in the mortgage.” 2 

Exact details of Harry Lee’s dire financial straits at this time are 
related by Thomas Boyd. Repairs could not be made on the Great House 
or its outbuildings, the stables, or the garden walls. This was perhaps 
the period when the building in the west area, conjectured to be the 
orangery, disappeared. 

One financial disaster after another crept upon the master of Strat- 
ford. He was fast being driven to the edge of the precipice. Worst of 
all, to his mind, must have been the fact that his wife and their three 
children were being thrust there with him and he had to stand by help- 
less. He had come to have a deep regard and affection for Ann, and 
he was intensely devoted to his children. During that entire first decade 
of the nineteenth century Harry Lee’s actions were like those of a blind 
man in despair. Over and over again men placed as he was have found 
suicide the only way out. 

Such a state of affairs had its inevitable reaction upon Ann Lee. 
Always frail, she was fast declining into chronic invalidism. She became 
subject to fainting spells, when she would lose consciousness for hours 

2 Boyd, Light Horse Harry Lee, 1931 



at a time. This evidently gave rise to an erroneous report, first published 
in Premature Burial, that in one of her fainting spells Ann was pro- 
nounced dead by the physician, was buried alive in the vault at Strat- 
ford, but shortly thereafter rescued "from her perilous position and a 
horrible fate.” 

"Had such a circumstance occurred,” says Mildred Lee Francis, "the 
family would have known of it and there would have been some men- 
tion of it in the Westmoreland County records.” Ann’s "death” would 
have been placed on record; notice of the funeral would have appeared; 
word of it would occur in family letters or documents. 3 

i i i i 

On May 10, 1803, Ann Lee writes in a melancholy vein to Mrs. Rich- 
ard Bland Lee: 

. . . my mind often recurs to you with mingled sensations of pleasure and 
regret. — Formerly when separated from you, I constantly looked forward to 
the period when I should again enjoy your society; but the pleasing anticipation 
no longer cheers my future prospects, and I consider you among the number of 
those dear friends whom fate has probably for ever severed me from — But 
while I lament its award, you will remain the cherished friend of my heart, 
united to it, by ties too strong for time or absence to weaken . 4 

In this same letter Ann refers to her affliction of "dropsy.” It is the 
only instance she mentions this or any illness by specific name. It was 
characteristic of Ann Lee never to complain of her troubles, though she 
frequently deplored her poor state of health. 

In her letter of May 3, 1804, to Elizabeth Lee she says, "I am much of 
an invalid.” In December of this same year there is a wistful expression: 

... I have always felt a particular desire that my Children should form 
an intimacy with the offspring of those, whose friendship has most advanced 
my happiness: and in wishing its commencement in childhood. I adopt the 
prevailing sentiments; tho’ from the testimony of my own heart I am taught 
that the union of congenial minds will be as lasting formed in the meridian 
of life. 

From your letters only I receive intelligence of friends I very much love. A 
passing acquaintance sometimes informs me that you are all well, but to a heart 
as tenderly attached as mine is to yourself, and several others, to whom your 
better fortune has placed you nearer, such information is not sufficiently minute 
to render it satisfactory. . . . 

How are the dear Children? are they much grown? is my god daughter as 

3 Aside from the brief statement in Premature Burial, Tebb, Vollum, and Hadwen, second 
edition, page 45 (Swan, Sonnenscheim & Co., Limited, London, 1905), sensational accounts 
appear currently in various newspapers which have been traced by the author to fictitious 
sources. They have no foundation in fact. 

4 Bland Papers, Library of Congress. 



amiable and pretty as when I saw her? and does her sister preserve her su- 
periority in point of beauty? I suppose Ann Matilda reads very well. I often 
excite my Childrens emulation by reminding them how prettily she repeated 
"The little busy bee” — Carter begs I will send her a piece of poetry he has 
committed to memory, which he says she will certainly prefer to The busy 
bee” — 

In January, 1805, Ann Lee again speaks of "being much indisposed.” 
Her philosophy of life and her dread of being pitied by anyone are 
clearly indicated in this letter to her favorite brother, Robert Carter, 
who has just returned from abroad: 

Stratford October I s * 1805 

I hope my dearest Brother has not supposed that his illness has caused me 
less affliction than his other friends, from my not having expressed it to him, 
for I must ever believe my regret to be more poignant than any other persons, 
our Parents excepted — - 

But having been so often an invalid, I imagine myself adequate to judging 
of the feelings of those in a similar situation, and nothing at those periods 
excited more painful sensations, than letters of condolence from affectionate 

Your return to America was one of the events I anticipated the greatest 
happiness from, that happiness is destroyed by your ill health, but I hope my 
beloved Brother it will soon be realized by your complete recovery. 

I wish so anxiously to see you, that trifling difficulties shall not prevent my 
being gratified, as soon after M r - Lee’s return from the upper Country, as we 
can make arrangements for the journey, and I implore my Heavenly Father, 
that I may find you, my best beloved Brother daily progressing in health! 

Ann Lee. 5 

Templemans X Roads 

l4t Octor 

[Addressed:] D r Robert Carter 
Viz City Point Shirley. 

The arrangements for the journey to Shirley to which Ann so looked 
forward in this letter apparently did not materialize for nearly ten long 
months. With late June of the following year, 1806, in the midst of a 
deadly heat, Ann set forth from Stratford, taking Carter, Ann, and 
Smith, who was sadly ailing, for this longed-for visit to her old home. 

It was as if one of the plagues of Egypt had withered the land. For 
months there had been no rain. The leaves of the giant beeches shadow- 
ing the east wing at Stratford had shriveled, the box had burned to a 
crisp, the vegetables were but leafless stalks, the fruit trees blighted 
and the flowers vanished. Most of the streams in Stratford’s forest had 

Tarter Manuscript, contributed to Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. Inc., by The Na- 
tional Society of the Colonial Dames in Virginia. 


disappeared and many of its springs gone dry. The savage drought ate 
up the fields and forests of Westmoreland and all the other counties of 
the Northern Neck. Famine was in prospect for many hundreds of 
people. The Lees’ rickety carriage passed slowly on in swirling, suffocat- 
ing dust through fields of parched corn and wide expanses of wheat, 
oats and barley burned to dry wisps of straw. The wide lands between 
the Potomac and the Rappahannock, usually so fertile, were like desert 

But in the region of the river James, so went report, there was no 
drought. On its sloping green banks, close to the sparkle of the river, 
with bowers of trees and vines and roses, Shirley would be for them 
like an oasis in the Sahara. In far more ways than even these, Ann must 
have thought her blessed home would bring comfort to her tired heart. 
There would be much, too, to tell her dear father that could never be 
put in a letter, and he would see that their broken circumstances were 

But at Shirley, for the first time in all Ann’s life, grief met them. She 
tells of it herself in a letter unknown till now: 

Shirley July 6 th 1806 

Before I arrived at this place, the arms which had ever received me with so 
much delight, were folded in death ! the eyes which used to beam with so much 
affection on me, were veiled for ever! and the cold grave was closed on my too 
dear and ever lamented Father! 

It would be vain, to attempt t[o] describe the grief, his loss has occasioned 
me, it is greater than I can express, and will only cease with my existence! 

Shirley, so lately the scene of happiness and gayety, is now, literally the 
House of mourning! We all feel, that our best hopes are buried in the grave 
of our blessed, and dearly beloved f[rfiend. — Oh! my dearest M r - Lee remem- 
ber, that your poor afflicted Fatherless wife, can now, only look to you, to 
smooth her rugged path through life, and soften her bed of death ! 

My poor dear Mother is bowed down with sorrow, and in very low health: 
a change of scene and climate, appears to be entirely necessary to her recovery: 
and I really fear my dear, my being here, will prove an obstacle to her early 
removal — The last week in this month, is fixed on for her leaving home: I trust 
my dear M r - Lee you will certainly bring a conveyance for me by that time, 
do not disappoint me I conjure you — I wish to see you too, on account of our 
unfortunate little Smith; his situation I think, most deplorable — If something 
is not done for him immediately, his life I am convinced, will be a burden to 
him — The four Physicians who have examined him, confess they are doubtful 
what his complaint is — It has increased extremely since you saw him — He 
should be placed with a skillful Physician, who would examine him daily, and 
thereby discover his disease — Carter has been very sick, and looks badly indeed. 
— Let me hear from you immediatly, and forget not my dearest M r - Lee, to 



guard your health with more care, than you have for several years past — your 
life is more important to your poor wife & children now, than ever it was: their 
other protector is taken from them, for ever and for ever! 8 

Ann Lee. 

Do not forget I entreat you, to write for Betty in the most pressing manner, 
to join me here immediately. A. L. 

[Endorsed in another hand:} 

From my 
Dear wife; 

(her fathers 


Ann’s father had been her first and her best friend, and his loss to her 
was irreparable. Years after her own death, this printed notice of his 
passing was found among her papers: 

Died on Saturday the 28 — Charles Carter Esq r - of Shirley — aged seventy 
years. His long and prosperous life was spent in the tranquil enjoyment of 
Domestic Life — where from the Mansion of hospitality his immense wealth 
flowed like the silent stream, enlivening and refreshing every object around — - 
In fulfilling the duties of his station he proved himself to be an Israelite indeed, 
in whom there was no guile He is now gone to receive from the Saviour of 
Mankind the blissful salutation — "Come thou blessed of my Father; inherit 
the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the World for I was a 
stranger and you took me in — naked and you clothed me — sick and in Prison, 
and you ministered unto me — ” 

Ann remained at Shirley with her children for several months. Ap- 
parently the carriage in which she had come from Westmoreland had 
broken down, and it was the last vehicle in the impressive coach house 
at Stratford. Doubtless the rest had long since been seized by creditors. 
In November Ann and her mother were spending a few days with the 
Walkers at Belvoir and she wrote Mrs. Richard Bland Lee: 

I am happy my dear friend in once more having an opportunity of tendering 
you my most affectionate regards. When I left Stratford, one of the most 
pleasing objects of my Summer excursion, was to pass a few weeks with you: 
but alas! the afflicting event which awaited my arrival at Shirley, made an entire 
change in my plans, and suspended every inclination, but that of enjoying the 
presence of my only Parent. 

When my Mother quitted this place, I should certainly have visited my Sister 
Randolph, and from thence hastened to Sully; again to have possessed the 
happiness of seeing you, which I have so long desired: but the want of a car- 
riage has been the obstacle to my enjoying so great a gratification: and now 
when I get one, the Season will be so far advanced that I must return home 

“Original letter from Ann Lee to her husband, Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 


by the most direct rout. May I not my dear friend when there, calculate on 
seeing you in the course of the winter ? I know not whether you have a carriage, 
but should I get one (which is somewhat doubtful) it can never be appro- 
priated more to my satisfaction, than in conveying yourself and dear family, 
to our poor old dwelling. . . . 

Stratford had become "our poor old dwelling”! It was not until after 
Christmas that Colonel Harry succeeded in getting a conveyance to 
bring his family home, and then but an open carriage. How cold must 
have been the tedious jolting drive back to Stratford, and how bleak 
and cheerless the Great House when finally they arrived! Ann took 
a severe cold from which she did not recover for months. The Great 
Hall was seldom used in winter. Even with the charcoal braziers it could 
not be made comfortable. Only in the east wing were the rooms 
habitable. On the north side of this wing was the dining room and 
pantry, where the family could be served from the kitchen outside. In 
this same wing, was the large southeast chamber which looked out on 
the beech trees and the garden and toward the south front of the man- 
sion. Here a log fire burned, and on sunny days the warmth streamed 
through the many-paned windows. Here Ann and the children lived 
and here were the preparations being made for the new baby coming so 
soon. Meagre enough, no doubt. 

But with Carter and little Ann and Smith close by, full of their own 
particular joys in being back at Stratford, yet probably bubbling over 
with recollections of the fun they had had at Shirley, and with Betty at 
hand to wait on her, undoubtedly there were some recompenses for 
Ann Lee in those first drear days of early January of the year 1807. 

Mrs. Richard Bland Lee was then in Philadelphia for the winter. On 
January 11th Ann wrote her from Stratford a letter containing this fre- 
quently quoted passage: 

That part of your letter which relates to your expecting another son shortly, 
is so defaced by the seal, that I cannot understand it; I applied to your husband 
for an explanation, and from his answer, I suppose he also has reason for such 
an expectation — You have my best wishes for your success my dear, and 
truest assurances , that I do not envy your prospect , nor wish to share in them. 

Not even to this intimate friend, who was herself an expectant 
mother, would Ann Lee reveal the facts about her own situation. Per- 
haps under the existing conditions there were no words for it. How 
could another child be received at Stratford with gratitude and rejoic- 
ing? Eight days aften Ann wrote this letter, her baby — a son — was born, 
January 19, 1807. He v/as her fifth child. She named him Robert Ed- 



ward, after the two brothers she loved most, Robert and Edward Carter 
of Shirley. 

Some three generations before in this same room where Robert E. Lee, 
Ann’s last son, was born, his father’s patriot kinsmen had also come into 
the world: Richard Henry, Francis Lightfoot, and William and Arthur 
Lee . 7 This southeast chamber was always the Mother’s Room of Strat- 
ford Hall. Hannah Ludwell Lee, the first mistress of the house and 
the mother of the revolutionary patriots; Elizabeth Steptoe, wife of 
Philip Ludwell Lee, and her daughter, the Divine Matilda — these three 
women had each occupied this room in the years before Ann. And 
the youngest of the Lee children always slept in the nursery adjoining. 

When Robert Edward was about seven weeks old, his mother wrote 
to Richard Bland Lee, who was as deeply concerned as his wife about 
Ann and about his brother’s financial difficulties. But not even from 
these devoted friends and relations could Ann Lee bring herself to 
accept favors: 

Stratford March 12 th 1807 

My dear Sir: 

I feel extremely indebted to you for the interest you manifest in my welfare 
— My Mother has an objection to vesting her money in negroes, having already 
more of that kind of property than she wishes for: and I should feel great re- 
luctance in proposing to her the plan suggested by your friendship for me, as 
my Ott'n benefit is the principal object of its design. 

I am nevertheless my dear Sir, fully sensible of your kindness, in contem- 
plating which, my mind most forcibly reverts, to the numerous obligations you 
have confered on my family, which have extended their influence to me, and 
left on my heart an impression of gratitude and affection, which death only 
can obliterate. I hope my dear Sir, you will not feel any farther uneasiness, 
from our being deprived of John & his family: I assure you I have long since 
ceased to regret such privations. I have just received intelligence, that the 
darling Sister of my heart (Mildred) is following rapidly, my ever lamented 
Father & Brother to the tomb! in such heavy calamities, with which I have been 
sorely oppressed for the last sixteen months, all lesser ills are absorbed. 

Please to assure my dear friend M rs - Lee, of my unvarying affection: and 
accept dear Sir, the highest esteem, and most affectionate regards, of your 
sincere friend 8 

Ann Lee. 

7 “. . . But the house [Stratford] is more remarkable for being the birthplace of two of the 
signers of the Declaration of Independence, and also of my brother Robert, who was born in 
the same chamber as they were.” Genealogical History of the Lee Family of Virginia and 
Maryland from A.D. 1300 to A.D. 1866. With notes and illustrations: edited by Edward C. 
Mead. New York, Richardson and Company, 1868. 

8 Bland Papers, T.ibrarv of Congress. 

Guardian angels of the Nursery at Stratford. 



There are two endorsements as follows: 

Mrs. H. Lee 
March 11. 1807. 

Westmoreland Co VA 
March 16 1807. 

Addressed: Richard B. Lee Esquire 


i i i i 

The winter passed. In the nursery at Stratford the baby slept, warm 
and comfortable, in his swinging cradle. The two tiny winged cherubs 
carved on the iron fireback of the little fireplace there, guarded him — so 
Carter may have thought — while he slept. With the early spring there 
came, like the quality of mercy, the gentle rains from heaven upon the 
earth beneath. Softly falling rains, unceasing rains by night, prayed for 
in vain the year before. And the sun shone by day. So the streams 
gushed forth again; the fields, parched in the long drought, revived; 
crops were rich and plentiful. Once more the people had the necessities 
of life, and everywhere distress was relieved. A wealth of fruit blossoms 
blew over Stratford in March and April, and over the other plantations 
and farms of Westmoreland County near and far. The land between 
the two rivers, last year a desert, once more was lush and green. 

So bright were the new days and months that throughout this land a 
formal Thanksgiving was proclaimed for the blessed year, 1807. 9 

’See Supplementary Records: Annals of Westmoreland County, 1806-1807. 




A FTER the birth of Robert, business troubles and anxieties con- 
tinued to press harder than ever upon his father. Yet Colonel 
JL jL Harry apparently gave much thought and time to the education 
and training of bis sons — "my dear boys” he called them. This is evi- 
dent from his letters to Ann and Carter as well as from Carter’s own 

Referring to this period, Harry Lee says to Ann that when "with my 
dear boys I as anxiously inculcated by precept & example . . . the 
wisdom of the habit of rising early & going to bed early, as the first 
cannot be practised without the last. The great english statesman & 
orator Earl Chatham, stresses this habit strenuously — these are his words 
'if you do not rise early, you never can make any progress worth talking 
of[’]; & another rule is, if you do not set apart your hours of reading, 
& never suffer y. r self or any one else to break in upon them, your days 
will slip through your hands unprofitably & frivolously unpraised by all 
you wish to please & really unenjoyable to yrself” — The great american 
soldier & statesman always rose with or before the day, & told me him- 
self, that had he not happily been from early life accustomed to rise 
early, he never could have executed the dutys which devolved on him 
in the course of life .” 1 

Colonel Harry may have faced quite suddenly the realization that, 
with four sons to pattern themselves after him, he must needs mend his 
own irregular habits. He seems to have had more human faults and 
frailties than other Lees. He may have been at times more "convivial” 
than they (excepting for the one instance recorded by John Adams of 
Richard Henry’s being "high” ) . Possibly he swore on occasions as Alice 
Lee says he did. If so, he stopped it. Carter declares he never heard his 
father utter an oath. Perhaps he gambled. Few gentlemen of his day 
did not. In any event, Colonel Harry took good care to exhort his sons 
against the contraction of debts and to support Ann in her dictum: "I 
wish my son never to bet.” 

Their father saw to it that his boys learned to shoot and to ride, and 
gave a gun and a horse to Henry, Carter and Smith before they were ten 
years old. It appears that at this time Colonel Harry assumed his didactic 
role: determined to be "an example” to his sons — to instill in them 
"good habits and high principles of conduct and of speech.” In order to 

1 Henry Lee to Ann Lee, September 3. 1813: MS., Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation 



be on perfectly safe ground, he therefore started out by rigorously train- 
ing them to do everything their mother said. At least Ann would always 
be right. 

From his later letters to his wife it is evident that they had a mutual 
interest and concern in building their children’s character, and that they 
frequently had long discussions about this and other abstract subjects: 

Learning only becomes most valuable & is by me only wished for my chil- 
dren; to open to their view the charms of virtue & to bind themste[a]dfastlyto 
its practice in word & deed. To be virtuous — reason & experience tell us we 
must be religious — Hold fast yourself (& inculcate on your brother to do like) 
this sheet anchor of happiness, this cititadel [citadel] in the perils & tempests of 
life — Cherish it fondly & abhor its two great enemys superstition & enthusiasm. 
What I understand to be pure religion is a heart void of offence to God & man & 
a belief or faith in one God who delights in right & reproves wrong — the forms 
& ceremonys of religion differ, but in essence they all worship the almighty 
Creator & rest on his providence & protection here & hereafter — among the 
ancients I would select for my sons reading Cicero de Nature Deorum & Plato 
- — among the moderns the history of jesus Christ commonly called the new 
testament, especially its four first books. 

Whether Christ was an inspir[ed] man as some beleive, or the son of God as 
Christians assert & some of them beleive, all must acknowledge the excellence 
of the morality he taught & wish its spread for the good of mankind — 

As to the sects with us, I cannot help thinking the Quaker mode of worship 
most expressive of mans humility & therefore to be preferred. 

In silence they adore God, to whom the tongue of man cannot utter appro- 
priate ideas & therefore rightly does the quaker apply silence as best expressing 
our inferiority & Gods superiority— best comporting with our nothingness & 
his supremacy. But the form of religion is unimportant & may be left with 
the individual — not so as to its obligations & duties — 

I have always admired the fulness & revered the truth so well expressed bv 
a roman, Ingratum qui dixerit, omnia dixit. No man can be good without 
being grateful in heart & to whom ought man to be most grateful but to his 
highest benefactor his prop, his stay, his comforter & his protector — Religion 
commands man to love adore in the warmest feelings of gratitude the great 
God — Virtue inculcates the same obligations & flourishes in mind & in act 
under the benign mantle of religion — 2 

The inner life of the family at Stratford had a certain harmony re- 
sulting from love and consideration, although their material circum- 
stances were daily becoming more desperate. Harry Lee reared his 
children to regard their mother’s word as law. In small as well as 
large matters, they were instructed that their mother was their first con- 
sideration. Carter and his younger brothers always occupied the nursery, 

2 Excerpt from original letter from Henry Lee to Ann Lee, Sept. 3, 1813, manuscript col- 
lection. Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. Inc. 



the small room connected with their mother’s room. So solicitous was 
Colonel Harry about Ann’s health and comfort that he never permitted 
his boys to make the slightest noise in the nursery or leave their beds 
until their mother was awake. 3 

Although Colonel Harry loved each of his children, he was especially 
devoted to Carter. "My dear son Carter,” he always said in addressing 
him, or in speaking of him: . . the darling child not only was dear 

to me from birth, but has tenderly loved me from the dawn of reason if 
I do not deceive myself ... he has been from the hour of his birth un- 
changeably my delight. . . . ” 4 

During Lee’s discouraging stay in New York and Philadelphia in 
1802, when he tried in vain to recover money he had lent others, and to 
raise funds to provide for his family and to save his business projects, 
Carter was his closest companion. The child’s little hand had been 
clasped tightly in his whenever they walked out together. What father 
could forget such an experience? 

The hours when Colonel Harry was off-guard and was just himself — 
not so much teacher as friend of his boys — were doubtless the times 
when they were most influenced by the relation of his experiences and 
his own ideas and attitude. Particularly by the way he introduced them 
to the Greek and Latin historians, poets, and dramatists — his familiar 
and beloved friends. The definite, personal way in which their father 
made both Henry and Carter acquainted with the classics colored their 
entire future outlook, as their writings of later years show. The scholar’s 
world became a part of theirs. Colonel Harry began to teach Carter 
Latin before the boy was six years old. When he was nine he could read 
Latin easily.' Smith and Robert, being too young, were not to have their 
father’s guidance, and were to suffer the lack of it all their lives. 

One of Colonel Harry’s best-loved "treasures,” next perhaps to the 
Ajax of Sophocles, was a seal ring which had belonged to a Roman 
consul. This he gave to "my dear son Carter” who cherished it always. 8 

At Stratford, for the three preceding generations, governesses and 
tutors had been members of the household. It appears that there were 

“Statement to author by Mildred Francis Lee, daughter of Charles Carter Lee. 

'Henry Lee to Ann and Carter. Sept. 3, 1813; Lee Foundation. 

“Carter Lee passed on his father’s friendly and informal instruction in the classics to his own 
son, Robert Randolph Lee. An incident is told in the family that when Thackeray visited Mr. 
George Taylor, father-in-law of Carter Lee, in Richmond, in the early eighteen-fifties, he was 
impressed with Carter Lee’s knowledge of the classics. “Where is that delightful gentleman I met 
last evening?” he asked, “who quoted Latin and Greek as if they were English?” 

“This ring was bequeathed by Carter to his son, Robert Randolph Lee, who owns it today. 



none at this time, however; both parents served in this capacity instead 
in a more or less desultory manner. 

During 1807, Matilda’s son, young Henry, was sent to boarding 
school at Lexington— to Washington College. Because of the competent 
tutoring he had received from his father, he was prepared in one year to 
enter William and Mary. Through his mother’s estate and his father’s 
action, provision was made for Henry’s education and patrimony, when 
on September 26, 1808, Henry Lee made an indenture that: 

Whereas Henry Lee, Jr., conveyed 1,600 acres in Fairfax County Called 
Langley to Richard Bland Lee & whereas Henry Lee, Sr., is desirous of in- 
demnifying his son for the same, also out of natural love & affection & in con- 
sideration of one dollar the said H. Lee. Sr., doth hereby acknowledge to his 
son "the Sugar Lands in Loudoun County of twelve hundred acres, Morton’s 
Island in the Potomac, also Eden Island, all of which were” part of the estate 
of the late Matilda Lee, mother of the said H. Lee, Jr., & in which said H. Lee, 
Sr., possessed a life estate only. 

As Carter grew older, as old as twelve or thirteen, he and his father 
would talk together like friends of the same age. Carter says his father 
told him stirring events of the Revolution and brave tales of his old 
companions in arms, and that he read to him — young as he was — letters 
and manuscripts, public and private, that were in the Stratford library 
where Chatham’s portrait hung: 

... I have been familiar from my childhood with the faces of many . . . 
illustrious men, as they looked from their portraits in my father’s house, who 
first passed into the broad sun-light of liberty from the shadow of that eclipse 
which was projected on the new world by the towering shores of the old. I 
have read in their own manuscripts, on the paper touched and folded by their 
hallowed hands, their public and private communications, all breathing the 
ardor of patriotism and the counsels of wisdom. . . . how dear to the human 
memory is the natal place; how fondly we recollect the green we first played on, 
the paths we first rode, the trees we first climbed, the flowers we first pulled, 
the faces we first loved; if you will reflect how the owners and the ornaments 
of this cherished spot, who likewise illustrate our own birth, become entwined 
with ourselves and mingled with our self-esteem as we travel along in life, and 
are continually driven by its sorrows to cling to its imperishable consolations, 
— then will you appreciate the pleasure I would take in expatiating upon the 
feats, in the Senate or the field, of those illustrious men to whom I have alluded. 
It would but be mingling the flow of filial affection and patriotic feeling were 
I to run over our toils and our triumphs from the monumental heights around 
Boston to the unmarked battle fields of Georgia; for either by his sword or his 
pen, the memory of my father is connected with them all. . . , 7 

7 Charles Carter Lee Papers, Archives Department, Harvard College Library. 

West passage leading to the parlor and the Cherry Tree Room. 



The end of Colonel Harry’s happy companionship with his children 
was perilously near. His creditors, a besieging army, were incessantly at 
Stratford’s gates/ Under Virginia laws, this was more than a mere an- 
noyance, for the debtors’ prisons of Virginia awaited the man who could 
not meet debts which his creditors brought into court. 

Light-Horse Harry Lee was at the uttermost end of his resources. He 
had not foreseen how completely incidental misfortunes and circum- 
stances, over which he had no control, as well as his own impractical and 
ill-judged actions, could operate to his ruin. Robert Morris’s inability 
to repay Lee the forty thousand dollars lent long before, was responsible 
for many of the unpaid obligations. In 1801 Morris, who had financed 
the Revolution, had come out of debtors’ prison in Philadelphia, broken 
in health and financially ruined. No return from the government had 
ever been made to Harry Lee for the thousands of dollars of his patri- 
mony spent in 1776 to equip his first cavalry troop with arms, ammuni- 
tion, uniforms, horses, and provisions. None had ever been asked. He 
had spent time and money to obtain recompense for his legionnaires 
after the Revolution — never for himself/ 

With Jefferson in power, Lee’s political eclipse was now complete. 
There was no chance for him, a Federalist, to hold office either in Vir- 
ginia or in the national government during Jefferson’s administration. 
His frenzied attempts to borrow from one man to pay another, to mort- 
gage or split his properties, giving one part on account of an obligation 
here, another part there, or to finance various projects and land specu- 
lations — all this added to the chaos of his affairs. And he had lived on 
credit even longer than most of his fellow Virginians, much longer than 
Ann approved. There was little excuse for it; where he had sown, he 
must reap. It was too late now for him to do other than to unite with 
Ann in training their sons to steer a different course. 

It is not surprising that, in his acute distress of mind, he became ill 
in the winter of 1808-1809, or that Ann, always frail, was also stricken 
and moved like a shadow about the house. 

“Explicit records of Lee’s debts, amounts, circumstances, names of creditors, etc., are set 
forth in Thomas Boyd’s Light Horse Harry Lee. 

““My grandfather was a soldier and a statesman, not a business man. He could have paid his 
debts if others could have paid him. But no one blames Mr. Robert Morris, he was just un- 
fortunate as my grandfather was. They two were friends. . . . Why General Harry Lee should 
have been called discredited because he lost money I can’t see. Jefferson owed money and his 
friends came forward and paid so that he might have no trouble. No one called Mr. Robert 
Morris discredited and he had the same fate as General Lee.” Statement by Mrs. Francis in 
personal letter to writer. 


Lee decided that the only hope for their recovery was a warmer 
climate. First he thought of going to the Bermudas; an old friend, liv- 
ing there in prosperous circumstances, pitied Lee’s desperate plight, 
and offered him and his family a home and competence. It would, how- 
ever, be difficult to leave the United States. 

To Lee’s anguish over the state of his personal affairs was added 
heavy concern over the condition of his country. He witnessed what 
must have seemed to him the end of the self-government for which he 
had fought in the Revolution. For nearly two years Jefferson’s Embargo 
Act had virtually isolated the United States. All foreign trade by land 
or sea was illegal. Thousands of men once engaged in such trade were 
now ruined. The wharves were piled mountain-high with tobacco, 
cotton, wheat, corn — rotting where they stood. The government treasury 
was empty. If Lee had not had so unswerving a loyalty to his country’s 
laws, he might have taken passage with his family secretly on some 
sailing vessel headed for the Bermudas or South America. But he re- 
fused to put himself in a class with the smugglers and illicit operators, 
whose number was legion. He wrote Secretary Madison: 

. . . as to myself, no British vessel can be found & no American vessel can 
be procured but by illicit contrivance & to such means (proud as I am) I can- 
not resort. The Brazils is the best place for me to go & if you will appoint a 
consul there & he is a good, friendly man I could venture with him. Such an 
appointment being made, the President] would be authorized to give me a 
let[ter] congratulating your friend on his safe arrival in that quarter of the 
globe, such a letter would authorize the President] to send a vessel with the 
bearer of the letfter]. Such is my distressed condition that I humbly expose 
to you such ideas as occur to me, favorable to my wishes, hoping that you will 
if you can aid me in my very painful situation. 

The request was futile. Just why James Madison did not respond 
favorably to his old college classmate, friend, and colleague is not 
known. All that Harry Lee needed was official sanction for a plan 
clearly outlined. He wrote again to Madison: "I despair of success 
unless I can be permitted to go out in one of our own sailing vessels 
chartered for the purpose expressly prohibited from taking anything 
on board but stores for the voyage & those only in amount as the col- 
lector may direct. The state of my own health my physician considers 
imperiously requiring a sea voyage.” Lee went to Washington for 
further pressing of his plea. Meantime Ann’s condition took a turn for 
the worse. She became gravely ill and wrote her husband from Strat- 
ford, the last letter she thought she would live to write. 

Again he appealed to Madison: 

Portrait of William Pitt which hung at Stratford : from engraving of original allegorical 
portrait by Charles Willson Peale, now at Westmoreland County Courthouse. 



The last letter from my family commands me to make the only effort in my 
power to preserve a life, the loss of which will bear me to the grave with 
unceasing woe. We sh[oul]d have gond to the Bermudas where I have a fast 
friend who had offered me his house, even purse. But our condition with G. 
Britain arrested our plan. . . . Brasil is dry & warm & with that government 
we are on a friendly footing. It is the only spot at this time open to a person 
situated as I am. 

I had wished that I could have been made useful to my country, but this wish 
I forego if improper, tho I feel not the weight of the objection to my proposal. 
I have served in war and in peace the U. S. I never asked for any office or even 
favor before from government or any member of government. Nor sh[oul]d I 
do so now but for the peculiarity of my condition. It is done with reluctance 
altho to you in whose friendship of most men on earth I have ever greatly relied. 

There was no response. 

With the passing of the cold weather both Ann and Harry Lee re- 
gained their health in some degree. But their days in the Great House 
were sharp with apprehension. The long-dreaded event, Lee’s arrest 
and imprisonment for debt, came in April. A writ obtained by certain 
Westmoreland creditors was "executed on the within-named Henry 
Lee” and Lee was committed by the County sheriff to "the prison 
bounds” at Montross. 

His son Henry says: 

Gen[eral] Lee was cast into a loathsome jail, and subjected to the combined 
persecution of political rancour, personal cupidity, and vulgar malice. Yet he 
never for a moment lost the dignity of his deportment, or the composure of his 
mind, never once descended to complaint, or stooped to importunity. . . . 
The pain of imprisonment he generously soothed by celebrating the exploits of 
his great commanders, Washington and Greene; by saving from oblivion the 
names and actions of his companions in arms, and by recording for the instruc- 
tion of future ages, the principal events of his own life. While he dwelt on 
these grateful and heroic themes, which smoothed the brow of misfortune, 
not an unfair opinion or ungenerous sentiment escaped him. His book is stained 
with no prevarications or calumnies, no evasions or contradictions — no slanders 
of rivals or of foes, and (though it contains political reflections) there is not 
to be found in it a single expression disrespectful to the laws of his country, 
detrimental to the union of the States, or injurious to the rights or liberties 
of the citizen . 10 

The idea of such a book had been stirring in Lee’s mind for years. 
His military comrades, when first hearing of his design, had been eager 
to contribute to its fulfilment. Circumstances, however, had not per- 
mitted Lee to take up the work, and it had been deferred from year to 
year. Now many of those old companions were dead, but the several 

10 Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson, by Henry Lee, pages 180-181. 



survivors among them were to respond with friendly interest and give 
Lee the additional facts he needed to begin his undertaking. The ma- 
terial for his history was organized and classified in his extraordinary 
memory to such a degree that in the quiet of the Montross jail he was 
able to begin the work of composition, and to write with as much poise 
and serenity as if he were in the library at Stratford: 

The determination of the mind to relinquish the soft scenes of tranquil life 
for the rough adventures of war, is generally attended with the conviction that 
the act is laudable; and with a wish that its honorable exertions should be 
faithfully transmitted to posterity. These sentiments lead to the cultivation 
of virtue; and the effect of the one is magnified by the accomplishment of the 
other. In usefulness to society, the difference is inconsiderable between the 
conduct of him who performs great achievements, and of him who records 
them; for short must be the remembrance, circumscribed the influence of pa- 
triotic exertions and heroic exploits, unless the patient historian retrieve them 
from oblivion, and hold them up conspicuously to future ages. "Saepe audivi, 
Q. Maximum, P. Scipionem, praeterea civitatis nostrae praeclaros viros, solitos 
ita dicere, cum majorum imagines intuerentur, vehementissime sibi animum ad 
virtutem accendi. Scilicet non ceram lllam, neque figuram tantam vim in sese 
habere; sed memoria rerum gestarum earn flammam egregiis viris in pectore 
crescere, neque priiis sedari, quam virtus eorum famam atque gloriam adae- 
quaverit .”* — Sail Bell. Jugur. 1 ' 

Regretting, as we all do, that not one of the chief actors in our camp or cabi- 
net, and indeed very few of our fellow-citizens, have attempted to unfold the 
rise, or to illustrate the progress and termination of our revolution, I have been 
led to this my undertaking with a hope of contributing, in some degree, to 
repair the effects of this much lamented indifference. With this view I am 
about to write memoirs of the Southern campaigns, being that part of the war 
with which I am best acquainted, and which in its progress and issue materially 
contributed to our final success, and to the enlargement of our military fame. 
Desirous of investing the reader with a full and clear understanding of the 
operations to be described, I shall commence these memoirs at the beginning 
of the third year of the war; for the principal events which occurred thereafter, 
laid the foundation of the change in the enemy’s conduct, and turned the tide 
and fury of the conflict from the North to the South. 

So runs the introductory chapter of Lee’s Memoirs of the War in the 
Southern Department of the United States. It was to become the chief 
source book of the American Revolution in the South, distinguished by 
specific and exact facts, clear portraits of men, and vivid descriptions of 
places, battles, marches, and engagements, strengthened by Lee’s techni- 

n Often have I heard, that Quintus Maximus, Publius Scipio, and other renowned men of 
our commonwealth, used to say, that whenever they beheld the images of their ancestors, they 
felt their minds vehemently excited to virtue. It could not be the wax or the marble that 
possessed this power ; but the recollection of their great actions kindled a generous flame in 
their breasts, not to be quelled till they also by virtue had acquired equal fame and glory. [Lee’s 


cal military knowledge, colored and deepened by his passion for the 
classics. The actors and the times are brought in its pages to vigorous 
life, as in his description of a cavalry engagement on the banks of the 

The fire of cavalry is at best innocent, especially in quick motion, as was then 
the case. The strength and activity of the horse, the precision and celerity of 
evolution, the adroitness of the rider, boot-top to boot-top, and the keen edge 
of the sabre, with fitness of ground and skill in the leader, constitute their vast 
power so often decisive in the day of battle. 

The Memoirs and his son’s statement show that Harry Lee triumphed 
over the misery and wretchedness of his lot: the vicious air, the dark 
cell, oozing dampness and vermin, wretched food, the filthy cot, the 
depression and agony of mind and spirit. Had he not been through six 
years of war? Here was one fight more. Whatever there was to face 
he would face. 

Thoughts of another man who had just such a fight to wage, must 
have come to Harry Lee. Like him, Sir Walter Raleigh had been thrown 
into a loathsome jail, but by courage and reflection had triumphed over 
his long days of distress. Even as the shadows of London Tower and 
the block itself lie over Raleigh’s History of the World, the air of the 
debtors’ prison in Virginia breathes through Lee’s Memoirs. The very 
lines that Walter Raleigh wrote a little while before his death, Lee 
might have spoken to himself: 

Even such is time, that takes in trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 

And pays us but with earth and dust; 

Who in the dark and silent grave, 

When we have wandered all our ways, 

Shuts up the story of our days; 

But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 

My God shall raise me up, I trust. 


Ann Lee’s distress over her husband’s fate and the public humiliation 
to which the family was now subjected can be surmised. She never 
spoke of it herself. With the exception of a brief reference in one of 
her heretofore unpublished letters, quoted here, there is a heavy silence 
over Stratford during those long months of Lee’s incarceration, first at 
Montross, and then in the jail at Spotsylvania Court House. Nearly two 
years of confinement! 

This much is plain: in prison he decided not to live again with his 
family. His reason for such a decision is not known. Because he was 



without means to support his family or even himself, he may have felt 
that he could not add to Ann’s burdens. There never was what is termed 
a "break” between himself and his family, "every member of which 
loved and reverenced him always.” 12 But, overwhelmed with grief be- 
cause of the disgrace and sorrow he had unintentionally brought upon 
those he so dearly loved, he might perhaps have imagined they would 
not want him to return to them. 

But the dark mood passed, as Ann relates in a letter to her brother- 
in-law, Carter Berkeley, when she says that her husband assured her that 
his intention was to live with his family "after his release from his pres- 
ent situation.” Ann could not bring herself to write the words, "im- 
prisonment” or "jail.” 

Carter Berkeley had invited her to bring all of her children to Edge- 
wood, his home near Fredericksburg, and live permanently with his 
family. His wife, who was one of Ann’s sisters, had died early in No- 
vember of that year, 1809. His own children were motherless; Ann’s 
children, for the time being, were fatherless, and in the face of Harry 
Lee’s expressed intention might always be so. 

Ann wrote from Stratford on November 26, 1809: 

My Dear D r , 

I received yesterday your letter of the 6 th instant — The painful intelligence 
it contained, had been a fortnight before, communicated by Sister Braxton. I 
feel most sensibly for you, for your dear Children, and on my own account. I 
have lost my beloved Sister and friend! but her dear memory will ever be most 
fondly cherished in my heart; and I have an humble hope, that our separation 
may not be eternal! To you my good friend, I can offer no consolation; for at 
present, your situation does not admit of any: but the tim[e] I trust will come, 
when your sorrows will be alleviated, and that tranquillity of mind restored 
you, which you are now so entirely deprived of. 

Our loss has been most afflicting dear D r -, but our comfort is great; we know 
that our dear friend is for ever removed from pain and distress; and we hope 
and believe, that her pure and virtuous life, has insured her endless ages of 
unfading felicity! I must now hasten to reply to the principal subject of your 
letter, as the post goes out tomorrow; and my letter must be conveyed to the 
office, at an early hour in the morning — 

I had intended to write more fully on the subject, but my Sister Carter arrived 
to dinner, on her way to Richd: Hill, and I could not leave her, till she had 
retired to her room; and it is now nine ’oclock. I must begin with thanking you 
for your generous offer my dear D. r : for my feelings most powerfully impel 
me to do so; for tho’ you would throw the obligation on yourself, I can discover 
a great portion of benefit designed me; for which, I shall be ever most truly 
grateful: nor let my declining to accept it, wound your feelings, or make you 

12 Statement to writer by Carter’s daughter, Mrs. Francis. 



confide less in my affection and friendship] for yourself and Children. M. r 
Lee in all his letters, requests I will remain here till his arrival — that the 
negroes may also remain, and that I should not take any step, towards fixing 
myself elsewhere: this he says, is for the mutual benefit of Henry, myself, & 
himself — I gave him a positive promise on first getting home, that I would do 
so, reserving to myself the right, of choosing my place of residence afterwards, 
and only going so far in the interim, as to make inquires, respecting the practi- 
cability, of procuring a place in the part of the [w]orld I wished to fix in, and 
adv[i]sing with my friends on the subject. 

M. r Lee constan[tl]y assures me, his intention is, to live with his family: after 
his release from his present situation, if so, you will readily see, the propriety of 
my not adopting your plan: but should he not my dear D r -> excuse me when I 
say, I fear I could not be happy, any where but in my own house — I assure you, 
I could live as happily with you, as with one of my own Brothers; but I feel an 
unconquerable inclination to fix myself permanently, be it in ever so humble a 
manner, and must indulge myself, in at least, making the attempt — There, dear 
D r -> any of your Children should find as many [co]mforts & advantages, as I 
should have the power of bestowing on [paper tornjrn. The dear little boys I 
presume you would keep with you, [paper torn] protector & guide they could 
have, and Elizabeth requires advantages a [paper torn], which I am not quali- 
fied to give her, but dear little Ann, I hope [paper torn] could render every 
service, necessary; but could you dispense with Elizabeth’s possessing those ad- 
vantages, or should I live in, or near a town, where they could be obtained, 
then my dear Sir, bring them both to me, and I will exert all the energies of 
my soul, to render their irreparable loss, as little felt by them, as possible. I 
reflect on yours, & my dear Brother’s visit, with much satisfaction; I hope I 
shall not be disappointed; but dear friend come, believing my mind fixed, on 
the subject in question, and do not ask me to change it, as it will be most painful 
to me to deny you. 

May all manner of consolation be administered to you my good friend, now, 
and in time, may your happiness be completely renovated. 13 

Ann Lee. 

[Addressed: ] 

D. r Carter Berkeley 12 o/o 
Frederick[s]burg Edge Wood 
Post to New found Mills. 

Ann Lee seems to have brought to bear upon her problems a certain 
new strength, practical common sense, and independence born out of 
the contingency itself. Her decision was to leave Stratford, and to find a 
permanent home for her family in some other locality in Virginia. 

By the terms of the trust Matilda had had drawn up, Harry Lee had 
life tenure at Stratford: but she, Ann Hill Carter, his second wife, had 
not. Matilda’s son, Henry, was the heir-at-law of Stratford. Henry was 

13 Ann Lee to Carter Berkeley; MS., Lee Foundation. 


then past twenty-one; and, excepting for the technicality that gave his 
father legal ownership of the Great House and the estate, young Henry 
was to all intents and purposes its master. He was about to graduate 
from the College of William and Mary. Soon he might be thinking of 
marriage. Stratford belonged to him, not to Ann or her children. There- 
fore Ann Lee began to make inquiries among her friends and kinspeople 
about a new place to live. Fortunately, from her father’s estate, pres- 
ently to be settled, she would have a definite income that would always 
provide for her and the children. After all, in spite of everything and 
everybody, it would be possible to preserve her family’s independence 
and dignity. She decided at length to settle in Alexandria. The little 
city was close to Washington, in the event her husband should ever re- 
enter political life. At least he could see old friends and would be 
nearer people and places with which he might need to be in touch in 
his new career as a man of letters. There would be schools for the 
children and a physician close by. Furthermore, living in Alexandria 
were many of the kinspeople, family connections and friends to whom 
they were devoted and who were devoted to them. Besides, by estab- 
lishing a home there, one of Ann’s most cherished desires would be 
realized: that, as she expressed it, her children should form an intimacy 
with those of her closest friends, "whose friendship has most advanced 
my happiness.” 

She was quite ready to leave Westmoreland. For the children the 
mere idea of moving, even though it was from so dear a place as Strat- 
ford, probably filled their days with stir and excitement. Ann waited 
only for her husband’s return, as she had promised him to remain in the 
Great House until he came back. 

During the long, lonely months, Ann Lee had need of all the faith 
and fortitude she could summon. Years later her husband said of her 
in one of his letters to Carter: "... your dearest mother is singularly 
pious from love to Almighty God and love of virtue, which are synono- 
mous; not from fear of hell — a low base influence. ...” 

Apparently Ann disciplined herself to such a degree that at last she 
could command her emotions and her grief, and maintain a poise, seren 
ity, and common sense that kept Stratford from becoming a house of 
mourning, that enabled the children to study and play as they were ac- 
customed to do . 14 Their father had frequently been away from them 

14 “My father and my uncles loved Stratford and held their lives there as most blissful,” says 
Mildred Lee Francis, “Every memory my father had of Stratford was a bright and happy one. 
The devotion between his father and mother was very great, he said. Harry Lee was patient 
and loving towards his children, all of whom had a great love and reverence for his memory.” 


before on his business ventures. Undoubtedly he had gone this time 
for just a little while longer. Soon he would be back with them. 

One knows that Ann derived additional strength to face her problems 
from the fact that Robert, scarcely two years old, needed her so. The 
other children were big enough to take care of themselves. But Robert 
was the baby. He was a child of a singular beauty of face and form and 
a disposition even-tempered, gentle, and sweet. Her baby whom she had 
not welcomed! Now in a bleak world he was her chief comfort, her 
recompense for all the sorrows of her days. So was forged the bond 
between mother and son that lasted for them both until the end of their 


Sometime later — it may have been the March or April of Robert’s 
third year, for it is among his earliest memories of Stratford— his 
mother planted a horse-chestnut tree in the garden. This he remembered 
all his life. As long afterward as the eighteen-sixties he said: "The 
horse-chestnut ... in the garden was planted by my mother. . . . ” 15 
Though unseen for years, he said every feature of Stratford was familiar 
to him; that here were "the scenes of my earliest recollections and hap- 
piest days . . . endeared to me by many recollections, and it has been 
always a great desire of my life to be able to purchase it. . . . ” 16 

Several other horse-chestnuts grew near the Great House, with giant 
beeches, hickories, the weeping willow and the row of Lombardy pop- 
lars. Two tall box trees stood like hooded monks before the smoke- 
house. The brick walls surrounding the garden were so high that the 
children could not see over them into the orchards and the fields, unless 
they lifted each other up to look. The Great Spring at Stratford was 
a strange, mysterious place. Although there were springs innumerable 
in the forests of the plantation, there was but one Great Spring — that was 
at the foot of the steep hill before the north entrance of the mansion. 
Here, nearly a century before, had President Lee built the circular spring 
house, of the same brick of which the house itself was made. The tops 
of the tall trees around it were almost on a level with the ground on 
which the Great House was built. They completely hid it from sight, 
and also hid the Great Spring, which fed the streams and rivulets flow- 
ing through the deep, fern-clad ravines like silver threads winding over 

“Excerpt from letter by R. E. Lee to his daughters, written from Savannah. Georgia, No- 
vember 22, 1861 : from Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, by his son, Captain 
R. E. Lee. 

“Excerpt from letter bv R. E. Lee to Miss Minnie Ward, of Warsaw, Virginia, written in 
the spring of 1866: from Life and Letters of Robert E. Lee, by J. W. Jones, 1906. 


mossy rocks and many-coloured stones on and on to the river. To a 
child, the house must have seemed the top of the world, and that deep 
gulf of shadow, where the spring was, was surely the bottom. 

"You did not mention the Spring,” Robert says, "another object of 
my earliest recollections.” He never forgot it, and, perhaps because of 
the wild flowers that grew there, he always knew and loved other wild 
flowers in other far-away places — even on battlefields — long, long after- 
wards. Carter also knew well every wild flower and bush and tree that 
grew in their "mountain wood” at Stratford and blossomed in early 
March or April: the hawthorn, the crab apple and dogwood, the wild 
grape and azalea. So lovely were they he called them "the sweets of 
solitude” and he could not help but put them into verse: 

The service boughs, the first to fling 
Out their white banners to the spring, 

Had lost their blossoms, and had blown 
The sweet crab-apple flowers and gone; 

Nor with the dogwood’s bloom of light 
The sunny ridges now were bright; 

But by the streams the grape’s perfume 
Fell O’er the azalia’s golden bloom. 

These with each shade of yellow tinge 
The mountain vales profusely fringe; 

And in such ample globes they glow, 

And into bowers so lofty grow 
The stranger almost deems he roves 
A wilderness of orange groves . 17 

i 1 1 1 

It was just at this season that their father came back home to stav. 
How terribly long his business had kept him! Colonel Harry’s trunk 
and boxes were full of papers, letters, documents — the source material, 
and many chapters in manuscript, of his Memoirs. They must be re- 
written and reorganized, and home was the only place where this could 
be done. Also he must confer with certain of his former brother officers. 
Ann’s decision to move immediately from Stratford wavered before her 
husband’s desire and need to remain there until his work could reach a 
more promising stage and he could obtain the new material he required. 

His debts and obligations had amounted to many thousands of 
dollars. It is not known just how they were settled, but the creditors 
were satisfied, and the court order obtained for Lee’s release. Undoubt- 

17 “The Maid of the Doe : A Lay of the American Revolution by An United States’ Man 
[Charles Carter Lee].” 


edly his brothers and other relatives or friends with perhaps some of 
Ann’s relatives, combined forces and came to his rescue at last. 

Colonel Harry could now feel in an easier frame of mind and make 
steady progress with his book. For months he had been in correspon- 
dence with old companions in arms, or sons or friends of theirs: John 
Eager Howard, Otho Holland Williams, Colonel Mercer, Nathanial 
Pendleton, and several others. When Lee was in jail, friends of his in 
Alexandria, Philadelphia, and New York, receiving the facts and in- 
formation he needed, would send or bring it to him at the prison. Some 
of these letters and manuscript documents which formed source material 
for his book have since been found. Blotted, stained, and mildewed 
from the prison damp, they give mute testimony to the courage of Light- 
Horse Harry Lee. 18 

So, comfortably at home once more, Colonel Harry went on with his 
research and writing. If the additional facts he needed could not be 
sent him by letter, he would arrange to get them by personal interview, 
at Stratford or elsewhere. On August 16, 1810, Lee wrote Major B. 
Hannah at Leesburg: 

Dear Sir 

I wrote to you some weeks past begging you to come and spend some days 
with me at Stratford. As you did not comply with my request, I will try again 
to see you by inviting you to ride to Mr. Israel Lacey’ tomorrow where I will 
wait the forenoon for you. Whence you will proceed with me to Mr. Carter’s 
I hope. 

At all events I shall save an opportunity of asking you some questions, which 
I think yr. memory will enable you to answer with accuracy and which I desire 
to know . 19 

H. Lee 


In the face of so important a work as her husband’s Memoirs, Ann 
continued to defer moving from Stratford. Then too, it was difficult to 
uproot the family. The children were so happy in the country! 

So the summer of 1810 passed. There were still more chapters of the 
book to be done. Autumn came. The manuscript was not finished. 
The family was not ready to go. Not until December or perhaps the 
week of the new year of 1811 — the date is not recorded — were their 
preparations finally made to leave the Great House. 

The library was left intact at Stratford. So were the family portraits, 
including the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Harry Lee. The greater part of 

18 Original documents found by author, and photostats made for Robert E. Lee Memorial 
Foundation, Inc., by Yale University Library. 

19 Original letter in collection of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 


the furniture, which had been there for nearly a hundred years, was also 
ieft. Among the few pieces known to have been taken to the new home 
was Robert’s cradle. He had, of course, outgrown it, but in a few weeks 
it would be needed again. Ann expected her next baby in February. 

The last of the vehicles was brought out from the huge bare coach 
house. The Stratford family packed in their belongings and started on 
their long, rough drive across country. 

"A Carriage Goes to Alexandria” is the significant heading of the 
opening pages of Douglas Southall Freeman’s R. E. Lee. This move 
signalized a sharp turning point in the history of the Stratford family; a 
complete severance with Westmoreland and the past, bringing new 
horizons for the children and new hope, perhaps, for Ann and Harry 
Lee. The prelude of Robert’s life, and that of his brothers and sister, 
written at Stratford, was over and done. The first chapter of their new 
lives was now to begin in a new place — the first chapter of Robert’s 
life, the last of his father’s. 



A FTER Stratford’s broad acres and deep forests, the towering cliffs, 
the white beach, the mill pond, and the woodland paths and 
.A JX roads, the city of Alexandria must have seemed to the Lee chil- 
dren a cramped and curious place. Many of the houses were in rows; 
others were set in garden squares separated by box hedges or wrought- 
iron fences which could be vaulted in a leap. Chimneys were built up 
their sides instead of being formed into towers as they were at Strat- 
ford. Uneven sidewalks of red brick, flagstones, or planks, and long 
cobblestone streets got lost in the distances or dropped suddenly off 
into the river. There was no beach, no sea shells, no strange sea weed 
drifting in with the tides from the Chesapeake. Instead, there were 
docks and wharves with fleets of sailing ships and boats, far more than 
ever rode at Stratford Landing. 

Yes, Alexandria was a queer place. The Potomac here did not seem 
to be even related to their river at Stratford. But the city had much the 
plantation did not have. There was the Friendship Fire Company, with 
a real engine given by General Washington himself, and a theatre such 
as Carter had seen in his travels north. There was a Masonic Lodge, a 
free school, a dancing academy, the Stabler-Leadbeater apothecary shop, 
and many other shops and stores. Besides all this, horse races took place 
when the Fairfax Jockey Club met just outside the city. There was a 
lovely churchyard, like a picture, around their new church — Christ 
Church. They had rented a house near by at 611 Cameron Street. It was 
a comfortable two-story brick house with a side yard. Almost the entire 
first floor might have been placed in the Great Hall at Stratford; but 
the house was pleasant and cozy, even if it was small. For several years 
it served as their home. 

To Ann and Harry Lee, the move to Alexandria must have had at 
least some of the recompenses Ann had foreseen. A number of other 
families in the little Virginia city on the Potomac had also left remote, 
isolated great houses in the country. The plantation life of a generation 
before was changing rapidly. The younger sons of the great houses 
were establishing themselves in the ministry, in law, medicine, in trade, 
and making their livelihood in towns and cities. 

Besides the Chantilly, Stratford, and Leesylvania branches of the 
Lees who had settled in Alexandria, there were also living in the city, 
or near it, the families of Fitzhugh, Custis, Stuart, Washington, Fair- 
fax, Lewis, Blackburn, Mason, Carlyle, Randolph, Dulaney, Carter, 

[ 330 ] 



Alexander, Ramsey — many of whom were related or connected with 
the Lees. Members of these families now became intimately associated 
with the transplanted Stratford family. Ravensworth, the estate of their 
kinsman, William Henry Fitzhugh, became in time the Lees’ second 
home. Arlington, presided over by Colonel Fitzhugh’s sister, Mrs. 
George Washington Parke Custis (Mary Lee Fitzhugh), was another 
lovely country home to which the Lees also became attached. Among 
other places they knew well were Abingdon, Hope Park, and Ossian 
Hall of the Stuarts, Mount Vernon, Woodlawn, and Rippon Lodge of 
the Washington, Lewis, and Blackburn families, and Gunston Hall of 
the Masons. Then too, William Lee’s daughters, Portia and Cornelia, 
were living in Alexandria. 

Ann and Harry Lee and their children found themselves in a city of 
friends. The situation of the Stratford family was, however, strikingly 
different from that of most of their Alexandria relatives and friends, 
who were enabled to build beautiful houses and who brought in their 
furnishings from the country. The belongings of the Stratford family 
had, for the most part, been left in the Great House. So far as is known, 
a few books, Light-Horse Harry’s clock, and Robert’s cradle were all 
they brought. Their limited means did not matter so much in Alex- 
andria as in some other city where they might not have had so many 

The poor health of their daughter, Ann Kinloch, remained a source of 
anxious concern. The child had a serious affliction of the hand and arm 
which made her peculiarly nervous and delicate. It had evidently begun 
in infancy. She was under the continual care of physicians in Alexandria 
and Philadelphia. Eventually, Judge Storrow says, the child’s arm had 
to be amputated. Another daughter was born February 27, 1811. She 
was named Catharine Mildred for Ann’s favorite sister but she was 
always called Mildred. 

An important factor in the family’s rehabilitation, for it was essen- 
tially that, was the distinguished character of the new undertaking in 
which Harry Lee was now engaged: the completion of his Memoirs. 
Many of their friends and neighbors might not read his book; few, 
doubtless, would buy it. But all would commend the undertaking and 
respect the author and his family. In this new place, the Stratford chil- 
dren would no longer be the children of a man but recently released 
from debtors’ prison, but the children of Lee the historian. It would 
again be recalled that the master of Stratford Hall was the famous Light- 


Horse Harry Lee of the Revolution, "Virginia’s favorite Souldier,” and 
three times her governor. 

So the Memoirs, even in embryo, paved the way for a new and hap- 
pier outlook. Harry Lee was always referred to now as "General Henry 
Lee” instead of "Colonel Harry,” and Ann became "Mrs. General Lee.” 

Lee was hopeful that his book would bring in much-needed financial 
returns and perhaps launch him on a career that would give him and 
his family means as well as honors. The manuscript was completed by 
the autumn of 1811 . That it did not immediately find a publisher must 
have been a disillusioning experience for its author. Finally a Philadel- 
phia firm, Bradford and Inskeep, contracted with Lee for the publish- 
ing, and in 1812 , the book made its appearance. The Alexandria Gazette 
printed the announcement: "Just received. Memoirs of the War in the 
Southern Department of the United States. By Major General Henry 
Lee. Two volumes, octavo. Price six dollars in boards or seven dollars 
bound.” Other newspapers in Baltimore, Washington, New York, and 
Richmond published notices and reviews. 

The Daily National Intelligencer said: 

[In the] Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United 
States. . . . the difficulties and privations endured by the patriotic army em- 
ployed in that quarter — their courage and enterprize, and the skill and talents 
of their faithful, active, and illustrious commander, are displayed in never- 
fading colors; a work, to use the language of the publishers by the perusal of 
which "the patriot will be always delighted, the statesman informed, and the 
soldier instructed. . . . [It] bears in every part the ingenuous stamp of a 
patriot soldier; and cannot fail to interest all who desire to understand the 
causes, and to know the difficulties of our memorable struggle. The facts 
may be relied on, "all of which he saw, and part of which he was.” 

The book, however, did not achieve the financial or literary success 
it deserved. It has more calibre and substance than Washington Irving’s 
work, yet Irving, curiously, was so entrenched in men’s minds as the one 
great American man of letters that there seemed no room in the public 
consciousness for another author. Who was an author from Virginia? 
The appearance of Lee’s Memoirs was an important literary event of the 
first quarter of the nineteenth century. Such success as did come, how- 
ever, apparently fixed Lee in his determination to go on with the writing 
of historical works. He continued to collect material for biographies 
of Washington and Greene. 

The convenience of living in Alexandria was a welcome contrast to 
life in Westmoreland, especially in so stirring a period of the nation’s 
history. On the Potomac, as well as on the Hudson, experiments with 

Mildred Lee Cbilde, youngest child of Light-Horse Harry and Ann Lee: from a plate of 
the original drawing. 


steam-propelled boats were continually in progress. Always interested 
in the economic, industrial, and commercial development of his country, 
Lee must have observed with zest the new methods of transportation 
by land and water, as they supplemented those with which he was fa- 
miliar. The changes resulting from Eli Whitney’s invention of the cot- 
ton gin were absorbing topics. There was much talk of Captains Lewis 
and Clark of the Northwest Expedition and of Captain Zebulon Pike, 
all of whom had opened new horizons to the west. Young officers of the 
United States Army and Navy were taking rank as scientists, explorers, 
discoverers. Something besides a war machine was being built by them. 
If the new republic could but have a breathing space — respite from war 
and talk of war! 


But the menace of war with Great Britain had been close at hand since 
the year of Robert’s birth, when the English sloop, the Leopard, had 
fired upon the United States frigate Chesapeake in an attempt to force 
its search for British seamen. In an effort to give his countrymen the 
actual facts, Lee wrote a pamphlet addressed to the people of the 
United States, urging them "to draw back from an unjust war, which 
with Great Britain at this period is certainly so. Let us go into the in- 
quiry,” he says: 

Three grounds of difference exist between us: 

Impressment of our Seamen. 

The Orders in Council; and 
The Attack upon the Chesapeak. 

The right of impressment has always been exercised by all the maritime 
powers of Europe, whose naval superiority secured to them its effectual appli- 
cation; and it ought always to be acquiesced in so long as it is confined to mer- 
chant ships, and to the subjects or citizens of the impressing power. The sole 
difficulty on this point is to reduce the exercise of the right by mutual agree- 
ment, into convenient practice. A state of war ought never to have been selected 
as the period for such discussion and arrangement, especially with England, 
situated as she was: it seemed to evince the ungenerous determination to take 
advantage of her distresses, in the settlement of a dispute on which no influence 
ought to be imposed but that which arose from truth and justice. Besides, the 
actual state of things authorized delay to a more convenient moment; it being 
indubitable that the number of British tars in our service, very far exceeded 
that of ours in their employ. But I confess the last consideration is not material 
with me; for I am persuaded that wisdom directs us to confine ourselves to the 
employment of our own citizens only in our own ships, public and private. It 
would be better to give a bounty to produce this practice than to depend upon 
any resource not growing out of our soil like our oaks. ... We come lastly 



to consider the outrage on the Chesapeak. It was indubitably an act of hostility, 
and good cause of war, had the British government justified the act. What was 
the conduct of the British government on the occasion? The moment it was 
known, its proper organ communicated it to our minister in London, anxiously 
soliciting information on the subject; deploring the event, and avowing a readi- 
ness to make ample satisfaction in case the British officers should have been 

This first step on the part of the aggressor certainly merits approbation. The 
second is in unison with the first. The British government abjured the preten- 
sion of a right to search ships of war in the national service of any state, for 
deserters; and declared that if the act of the British officers rested on no other 
ground than the simple and unqualified assertion of the above pretension, the 
king has no difficulty in disavowing that act, and will have no difficulty in mani- 
festing his displeasure at the conduct of his officers. What could be uttered 
better adapted to manifest the solemn determination of the British govern- 
ment to render complete satisfaction for the outrage committed upon our 
honour ? . . . 1 

However, in numerous Alexandria homes there was ceaseless anxiety 
for fathers or sons, sailors on merchant vessels, who had been impressed 
by British ships on the high seas. Worse than this, other seamen from 
Alexandria had been captured by pirate ships of the Barbary Powers 
and thrown into Algerian prisons. These atrocities took place with the 
secret connivance of England, France, and Spain. 

What was happening to people in Alexandria was happening to many 
families in other river towns and seaport cities on the Atlantic seaboard. 
By 1812 more than a thousand American-born seamen had been im- 
pressed into service on British ships. But with England crippled by its 
war with Napoleon, men of the Federalist party hoped, as Lee did, to 
have the wrongs adjusted by other means than war. Experienced in war 
as Lee was, no man deprecated its coming more vehemently than he. 
Yet every day the situation became more tense, more threatening. 

The fair promise of industrial and commercial prosperity was not to 
be fulfilled. The Twelfth Congress, opening its sessions in the new 
Federal capital across the Potomac from Alexandria, saw a new genera- 
tion of politicians, new sensational ideas, and measures which to Lee’s 
mind were ominous and boded ill for the country. Under the leadership 
of Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, the War Democrats were shaping 
legislation to fit an immediate state of war. Congress voted to raise the 
regular army from 10,000 to 350,000 men. 

Resistance of the Federalists to the war measures of Congress and the 
administration was strengthened by a series of editorials in a Baltimore 

1 A Cursory Sketch of the Motives and Proceedings of the Party which Sways the Affairs 
of the Union, by General Henry Lee. Philadelphia, 1809. Pages 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29. 


journal, The Federal Republican, written by the editor, who was also 
the owner, a socially prominent young Marylander, Alexander Contee 
Hanson. To Hanson Harry Lee was as devoted as if he had been his 
own son. Hanson’s father, Lee’s close friend, had been the Chancellor 
of Maryland and compiler of the laws of that state, published in the 
volumes known as "Hanson’s Laws.” At the beginning of his career he 
was an assistant secretary to General Washington and later one of the 
first judges of the General Court of Maryland. Young Hanson’s grand- 
father, John Hanson, had also been a friend of Light-Horse Harry Lee, 
of Richard Henry, and Francis Lightfoot Lee. For John Hanson was 
one of the "founding fathers” of the nation, and on November 5, 1781, 
had been elected President of the Congress at its first meeting after the 
signing of the Articles of Confederation. A man of exceptional moral 
fibre and personal force and decision, he had helped greatly to uphold 
the morale of the colonies and to steer them in a wise and self-respecting 
course. For several generations the Hanson family, early settlers in 
Charles County, Maryland, had been friends of the Maryland branch 
of the Lees, established by Philip Lee, son of the second Richard and 
brother of Thomas and Henry Lee. Associated in county, state, and 
national affairs, the Hansons and the Maryland Lees were also con- 
nected by marriage. 

In his editorials, young Alexander Hanson pointed out the reasons 
why the United States should not plunge into war and stoutly opposed 
every step taken by the War Democrats to bring on the catastrophe. The 
Federal Republican was widely read and was swaying public opinion. 
But there was savage antagonism to the young editor, and he was 
threatened with violence. 

On June 1 President Madison sent his war message to Congress. 
Eighteen days later war was declared. Far from being received with 
enthusiasm and acclaim by the nation, the declaration was a signal for 
general mourning. Ships in the harbors put their flags at half-mast; at 
public meetings throughout the north and east, resolutions were passed 
denouncing the war as unnecessary and ruinous. A Peace Party was 
formed by the Federalists. But most of the southern states were in favor 
of the war. Maryland was sharply divided — Annapolis was in a furore: 
the State Senate passed resolutions approving the war; the House dis- 
approved them. Yet at the same time the representatives passed resolu- 
tions pledging their lives and fortunes in the country’s defence. In 
Baltimore, war hysteria was rampant, and opposition against Hanson 
and The Federal Republican took on dangerous aspects. 



With all the eloquence at his command, Hanson condemned the war. 
In an editorial published in his paper the day after war was declared, he 

Thou has done a deed whereat valour will iveep. 

Without funds, without taxes, without an army, navy, or adequate fortifica- 
tions, with one hundred and fifty millions of our property in the hands of the 
declared enemy, without any of his in our power, and with a vast commerce 
afloat, our rulers have promulged a war, against the clear and decided senti- 
ments of a vast majority of the nation. ... We mean to represent in as strong 
colors as we are capable that it is unnecessary, inexpedient, and entered into 
from partial, personal motives. ... We mean to use every constitutional 
argument and every legal means to render as odious and suspicious to the 
American people, as they deserve to be, the patrons and contrivers of this highly 
impolitic and destructive war, in the fullest persuasion that we shall be sup- 
ported and ultimately applauded by nine tenths of our countrymen, and that 
our silence would be treason to them. . . . 

His emphatic words were answered by meetings throughout the city, 
at which the War Democrats and city officials harangued the people 
against Hanson’s views and put forth the idea of suppressing his paper 
by violence. Several hundred men and boys, armed with axes, hooks, 
and ropes, surrounded the office of The Federal Republican, a frame 
building at Second and Gay streets. Smashing doors and windows, thev 
seized the presses, type, and paper, and flung them into the street to be 
destroyed. They tore down the entire building, board by board. The 
death of one of their own gang, killed by a fall from the second story, 
increased their wrath. 

Hanson had taken temporary refuge in the village of Rockville. His 
staff had also left the city. The mob, balked in their plan for vengeance 
on Hanson and his men, turned to the negro quarter of the city to attack 
defenseless blacks, and then to the docks, where they dismantled vessels 
from Spain and Portugal. Almost the entire day and night of June 22 
the city was in the hands of the rioters. 

Alexander Hanson was not the man to run from such a challenge, nor 
were his friends. From that instant the political character of the contest 
changed. No longer an attack against the administration and the War 
Democrats, it became instead a struggle for civil liberties, for a free 
press and free speech. 

Were the city of Baltimore and the State of Maryland to be permitted 
to repudiate the State’s own constitution and that of the United States? 
"Until the Federal Republican revives we have no press in Maryland! 
God grant it a speedy, permanent and honorable resurrection!” Hanson 
received many such messages. His friends pledged their support to the 


cause, and to him. Immediate preparations were made to print the paper 

General Lee was among the first of Hanson’s friends to come to his 
aid, notwithstanding the fact that he had just accepted the commission 
of Major General in the United States Army, offered him by President 
Madison. Although for years Lee, strenuously objecting to the war, had 
been as outspoken in his views as was Hanson himself, he now felt 
obliged to support the official act of Congress. But he could not coun- 
tenance defiance of the Constitution of the United States or of the guar- 
anteed privileges of any American. Were these now to be violated and 
traduced by an ignorant and vicious mob and by sinister forces in high 

Eighteen years before, in the Western Insurrection, Lee had led a force 
of 15,000 men to defend the Constitution against rebellion. Here was 
just such another struggle, but under far different circumstances and 
far more serious in its implications than the Whiskey Rebellion. For 
this was a threat to the integrity of the spirit of the Constitution. The 
very existence of the Bill of Rights might be at stake. 

Lee’s views were shared by another veteran of the Revolution, James 
Maccubin Lingan, then Collector of the Port of Georgetown. Like Lee, 
having fought for the very liberties now being denied an American citi- 
zen, General Lingan was ready again to take up arms to hold and con- 
serve those rights. Among the younger defendants of civil liberties who 
joined Lee and Lingan in pledging immediate aid to Hanson and their 
lives to defend the cause, were Captain Richard Crabb, Dr. Philip War- 
field, Charles J. Kilgour, Otha Sprigg, Ephraim Gaither, Henry Nelson, 
Robert Kilgour, Peregrine Warfield, Harry Gaither, and John Howard 
Payne. According to their sworn testimony at the official hearings, their 
only motives were "to protect the person and property of Mr. Hanson 
and defend the liberty of the press with their lives, if necessary.” 2 

The Federal Republican was at once reestablished in Georgetown, 
and printed and distributed there until July 26. On that day, Lee, 
Lingan, and the younger men, all heavily armed, met Hanson in Balti- 
more, and fortified the recently abandoned home of one of Hanson’s 
staff, a narrow three-story house on Charles Street near Market. 

Hanson hoped that the presence of his friends and the prospect of 
resistance would prevent the repetition of violence, show that he was 
not to be intimidated from publishing his paper, and that he was ready 
to repel force by force. In view of his experience General Lee was 

2 Scharf, Vol. Ill, p. 20. 



asked to direct the group — about thirty, all told — of Hanson’s friends 
in the defense of the house. Arms and ammunition were brought in 
during the day and night in the face of a gathering mob. On Monday, 
July 27, copies of The Federal Republican, still printed in Georgetown, 
were sent to Baltimore for distribution. 

The spirit of lawlessness bred of several years’ constant defiance of 
the Embargo Act among groups of ignorant men and boys in seaport 
towns, undoubtedly played a part in the cold-blooded attempt at mass 
murder that followed, with, as Scharf points out, the full knowledge and 
treacherous connivance of the civil authorities of Baltimore, the militia, 
and others in high political office who have never been identified. 

There is nothing to mitigate the horror of what took place during 
those two days. It was a miracle that any one of the men escaped with 
his life. Having resisted the mob’s attacks on the house for twenty-four 
hours and kept them at bay, Lee’s men reached the end of their re- 
sources. At least ten of the group had been sent out from time to time 
for food, more arms, reenforcements, or aid from the civil authorities. 
None had found it possible to reenter the beleaguered house where their 
companions were facing a death struggle. According to the depositions 
quoted by Scharf: "This remaining number was barely sufficient to man 
the essential stations. There were none to relieve them. The effects of 
fatigue and want of sleep began to be felt. Those of hunger and thirst 
must soon be added, for their stock of provisions and water was small, 
and a supply was impossible. To a military man of judgment and ex- 
perience like General Lee, these circumstances would naturally appear 
in all their force.” 

When the mayor of Baltimore and the general of the militia sent 
Hanson and Lee a guarantee of safety if they would all go to the city 
jail, General Lee overrode Hanson’s objections and took the civil author- 
ities at their word: "He saw the defence necessarily and rapidly becom- 
ing weaker, while there was reason to believe that the attacking force 
would greatly and rapidly augment. Being a soldier too himself, he 
could not doubt a soldier’s honor, nor believe that General Strieker, who 
had served like himself in the war of our Revolution, could abandon 
those who surrendered their arms on the faith of his word.” Accord- 
ingly Lee gave his opinion in favor of a surrender. "Several others . . . 
declared for the same course. But Mr. Hanson, more ardent because 
younger, smarting under wrongs unredressed, and flushed by the hope 
of gaining in the end a glorious victory, and less confiding ... of the 
persons on whom they were invited to rely, strongly and pertinaciously 


opposed this sentiment to the last, contending that if the defence was 
really impracticable ... it was better to die there with the arms in their 
hands, than to surrender for the purpose of being led through the streets 
like malefactors, and in the end massacred by the mob. . . . The opin- 
ion of General Lee, however, finally prevailed, and the whole party . . . 
surrendered themselves into the hands of the civil authority. An escort 
of horse and foot was provided by General Strieker, and they were con- 
ducted from the house to the jail . . . between eight and nine o’clock in 
the morning.” 

One of the chiefs of the mob said '' ' . . . we shall take them out of 
the jail tonight and put them to death.’ This intention was publicly 
. . . avowed in the course of the day . . . express invitation to that 
effect was given the principal democratic paper of the day, and the 
preparations for carrying it [the massacre} into effect were openly 
made. . . . An order was obtained in the legal form to call out the 
military for the protection of the jail, but directed expressly that they 
should be furnished with blank cartridges only.” Even this poor pro- 
tection was soon removed when the militia was dismissed. This the 
rioters regarded as a signal to attack. 

The mob gained possession of the principal entrance into the prison, but 
there were still two very strong doors to be forced before they could reach the 
party within. One of these doors detained them more than a quarter of an hour. 
Whether it was finally forced or unlocked is not known. When they reached 
the last door, after a few slight blows it was unlocked. . . . This was the post 
in which the plighted faith and honor of Gen. Strieker should have placed him; 
but . . . [it] was left . . . unguarded. When the victims saw the danger ap- 
proach nearer and nearer they calmly prepared for their fate, but resolved to 
make every possible effort for effecting their escape. Hanson recommended 
that they should all rush among the mob, put out all the lights, create as much 
confusion as possible, and by that means . . . escape. Both he and Lee urged 
their companions not to fire on the mob. Two of the group failed to heed the 
order and threatened to shoot the first assailants who replied T can kill you!” 

All were then rushed upon and the massacre commenced. Hanson’s 
plan availed a number of his friends, nine or ten of whom made their 
way through the crowd in the darkness and confusion. 

But it was useless to himself, because he was known to Mamma, the butcher 
[one of the mob leaders who had previously been taken into the jail by civil 
authorities for the purpose of identifying Hanson and his supporters}, who now 
recognized and knocked him [Hanson} down after he had made his way to 
the . . . hall of the jail. He was then dreadfully beaten, trampled on, and 
pitched for dead down the high flight of stairs in front of the jail. . . . 
[Mumma] was posted at the door to mark the victims as they came out, and 
designated them for slaughter by giving each a blow or two, which was the 



signal for his associates, who proceeded to finish what he had begun. The fate 
of Mr. Hanson, befel General Lee, General Lingan, Mr. Hall, Mr. Nelson, Mr. 
Kilgour, Major Musgrove, Dr. P. Warfield, and Mr. Wm. Gaither, all of whom 
were thrown down the steps of the jail, where they lay in a heap nearly three 

During this whole time, the mob continued to torture their mangled bodies, 
by beating first one and then the other, sticking pen-knives into their faces, and 
hands, and opening their eyes and dropping hot candle grease into them. . . . 
Some of the victims were rendered wholly insensible by the first blows which 
they received. . . . While General Lee’s mangled body lay exposed upon the 
bare earth, one of the monsters attempted to cut off his nose, but missed his 
aim, though he thereby gave him a bad wound in the nose. Either the same per- 
son or another attempted to thrust a knife into the eye of General Lee, who 
had again raised himself up. The knife glanced on the cheek-bone, and the 
General being immediately by the side of Mr. Hanson, fell with his head upon 
his breast, where he lay for some minutes, and he was kicked or knocked off. A 
quantity of his blood was left on Mr. Hanson’s breast, on observing which one 
of the mob shortly afterwards exclaimed exultingly, See Hanson’s brains on 
his breast.” 

The men were left for dead. The leaders of the mob resolved to 
come back the next day to hang the bodies and then dissect them. While 
they were debating whether or not to immediately cut the throats of all 
their victims, a young physician in their midst whom they doubtless 
considered one of themselves, induced the mob to place "the dead 
bodies” under his care until morning. The ruffians finally consented 
and went away from the place planning to return in a few hours. 

The physician was John E. Hall, a graduate of Princeton University. 
With the aid of several assistants who appeared as soon as the mob had 
gone, he carried the wounded and unconscious men back into the jail 
and resuscitated them — all except General Lingan. With difficulty, Hall 
overcame the jailor’s objections to his stratagem and had the victims 
removed from the jail before dawn to places of safety. Hanson asked 
to be carried to General Lingan. He stood silently over the dead body 
of his old friend for a moment, then was placed on the back of his 
rescuer and hurried from the jail. Any moment the blood-thirsty mob 
might be back. Hall obtained a carriage to take General Lee to the hos- 
pital "where his wounds were dressed by the physician, and he received 
every assistance of which his deplorable and mangled situation ad- 
mitted. Hence he was next day conveyed to the country.” Lee was 
driven over the State line and secretly placed in a house or hospital at 
Yorktown, Pennsylvania. A letter dated at Yorktown, August 7, 1812 
partially describes his condition: 



On the crown of his head, there was a wound about one inch square, which 
must have been made with a stick or club. It had been sewed up; the bone of 
the head is not fractured, and this wound seemed to cure fast. On his left 
cheek, there is a deep cut, as if made with a penknife. His nose was slit with a 
knife as far as the bridge, and having been immediately sewed up, seems to 
be united and is doing well, and the nose has its natural form. His right eye 
had been dreadfully bruised, and is still closed; it is believed the sight will 
be preserved. The upper lip has been stitched up. He sees out of the left eye, 
which also was severely bruised; and both sides of his head, his whole face 
and his throat, from his ears to the breast-bone, are shockingly bruised and 
much swollen. This arose from efforts to strangle him, and to this cause his 
inability to speak or to swallow any solid food at this period is attributed. 
There are some bruises from the club on his left thigh, which are not to be re- 
garded now . 3 

In this letter no mention is made of the serious internal injuries Lee 
sustained, which were to cause his death after six years of prolonged 
suffering. For days he lay in agony at Yorktown. His death was reported 
several times in the newspapers and a number of eulogies appeared. So 
far as is known, no mention was ever made then or in any biographies 
of Lee written since of the great cause for which he had given his life. 
Not for many weeks was it known whether he would survive. 

Late in September Lee was carried to his home in Alexandria where 
Ann and their children could care for him. Lucy Grymes — Mrs. Ber- 
nard Carter — expecting the birth of a child, could not go to her father. 
She wrote of her distress to her great-aunt, Alice Lee Shippen, then at 
Oxford. Alice replied in her letter of September 17: "Yes I have heard 
of the sad catastrophy at Baltimore. How meloncholy to think of, how 
painful to write of, but I must just mention it. However it is pleasant 
to reflect that the worst is over, that your dear Father is out of danger. 
I hope I shall see him on his return to Virginia.” 4 

Not one of Lee’s family — not even his wife or sons (all of whom 
were children, excepting Henry) — ever realized the actual reasons or 
circumstances that led to his defense of Hanson and The Federal Re- 

Mildred Lee Francis says: "Harry Lee felt that it was simply a matter 
of course for a man to sacrifice himself and all that he had for his coun- 
try; that it was just a part of his everyday life and was not to be men- 

3 Scharf, Vol. Ill, page 13: “Alexander Contee Hanson also received internal injuries at the 
hands of the mob, which were a contributing cause of his premature death seven years later. 
When he apparently recovered, his state endeavored to make amends to him. He was elected as 
a Federalist to the 13th and 14th Congresses, serving from March 4, 1813, until his resignation 
in 1816. Elected then to the United States Senate, he served from December 20, 1816, until his 
death on his estate Belmont, near Elkridge, Howard Co., Maryland, April 23, 1819.” 

4 Shippen Papers. 


tioned. He never once thought of himself — only the duty that lay before 
him, and he never referred to the word sacrifice or considered himself a 
martyr. Simply he taught his sons that when duty came no matter how 
disagreeable it was they must always face it and say nothing about it. 
All the family thought, just as my father did — and he was only a boy 
at the time — that General Lee went to Baltimore to the Federal paper 
office on private business and that the visit was most unfortunate.” 3 

This singular lack of insight into the principles at stake in Baltimore 
was not shared by the people of the surrounding country. General 
Lingan’s mangled body, which had been secretly buried by a relative, 
was taken from its obscure grave in September, 1812, and buried with 
full military honors at a public funeral. George Washington Parke 
Custis, in his Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, says 
that citizens of Washington and part of the states of Virginia and 
Maryland met to pay honor to the memory of this man who "fell a 
faithful martyr to the liberty of his country.” So numerous were the 
mourners that it was found necessary to substitute for the church 
originally selected "a shady eminence in the neighborhood of the city,” 
where beneath the oak trees the tent of Washington was suspended 
over the coffin of this veteran soldier who had died in defense of the 
very liberties for which he had fought in the Revolution. On the benches 
in front of the platform sat Alexander Hanson "and surviving members 
of the band who had gallantly defended the rights of freemen and the 
liberty of the press.” 6 

As soon as he had sufficiently recovered from his injuries, Lee wrote a 
Correct Account of the Conduct of the Baltimore Mob in order to "call 
to the knowledge of our citizens generally, as much accurate information 
respecting the hideous and diabolical struggle of the leaders of the 
dominant party, as will contribute to guard well the public mind, against 
any and every future attempt, to trample upon the rights of private 
citizens, and to frustrate the first principles of our excellent Constitu- 
tion. ...” 

In this document Lee records his belief that the mob was "of govern- 
mental origin and had its foundation in executive authority.” He states 
that President Madison had knowledge of what was to happen in Balti- 
more and that the proceedings of that day (the conspiracy to murder 
young Alexander Hanson in cold blood) were "complete furtherances 

“Statement by Mrs. Francis to the writer. 
“Page 571. 



of the views and wishes of the heads of that [executive] department.” 
He denounces the base effort "to prostrate the principles of civil liberty, 
and to render the laws subservient to the ambitious views and dastardly 
operations of a factious party, destined by its earliest and ceaseless 
struggles to make itself paramount to the laws of the land, and to ride 
most triumphantly over the entire interest, principles and happiness of 
the purest and greatest portion of our citizens .” 7 

Only a few of Harry Lee’s friends outside the group who suffered 
with him in Baltimore ever sensed the fact that he had risked his life 
for the principles and ideals he had cherished since he was a boy at 
Princeton. His last stand for Liberty was the crowning achievement of 
Harry Lee’s life. This has remained unrecognized for one hundred and 
twenty-four years, although contemporary records show clearly and 
definitely the motives of Hanson’s defenders. Minute details of the 
Baltimore riot, together with descriptions of Lee’s injuries, have fre- 
quently been published; but no one has pointed out that Lee was a 
martyr to the cause of civil liberties. 

7 To judge from affidavits quoted, the Correct Account was written in the late summer of 
1812. It was published “by a particular friend C. B.”, but not until July, 1814. 



EE did not recover. Wracked with pain, he lay in his Alexandria 
home throughout all the remaining months of 1812. The spring 
^ of the following year found him still suffering and incapable of 
further writing or work of any kind. His external wounds healed in 
time, though they left him disfigured in face and partially blind. But 
with medical science at so imperfect a stage, there was no means of 
determining the character and extent of his internal injuries. 

Nothing, however, could quench his courageous spirit. In a warmer 
climate, he felt, he could recover from his injuries. Again the thought 
of going to the West Indies occurred to him. He would go to the 
Barbados, San Domingo, Porto Rico, New Providence, Nassau — he did 
not know just where — but he would go to those pleasant islands so that 
presently he could come back, sound and well again, to his children and 
"their dearest mother,” and take up his writing once more. 

The war with Great Britain put obstacles in the way of Lee’s de- 
parture for a foreign port as great as those of the Embargo Act years 
before. But this time, when he applied to the President, Madison lis- 
tened and gave his instant cooperation. Had he perhaps heard rumor of 
The Correct Account of the Baltimore Mob still in manuscript? Harry 
Lee refers to Madison’s response in the journal he began after his 
arrival in the Barbados: 


My grievous wound received from the mob of Baltimore menacing me with 
a continuance of disease and [illegible] with the permission of the president 
I applied to Admiral Warren for leave to go to the W. Indies. Having early 
communicated my intention to P. B. R. for whom I had long entertained a 
warm regard and to whom I have ever done every good in my power, he prom- 
ised on certain offered conditions to accompany and to aid me in every way in 
his power. . . . 

This is Lee’s only reference to his departure from the United States. 
The exact date, place, and circumstances are not known, and "P. B. R.” 
is still only a monogram. 

Ann Lee’s letter of September twentieth of that year, written from 
Long Branch, New Jersey, to Zaccheus Collins in Philadelphia, gives a 
clue. This may indicate that she went north with her husband in the 
latter part of June and saw him aboard the ship bound for the West 
Indies — on the voyage from which he was never to return. 

Her letter to the father of her old friend Elizabeth Collins Lee, is 
impersonal and formal: 

[ 345 ] 


Long Branch September 20 th 1813 

Dear Sir, 

I am greatly indebted to you for your attention respecting my Carriage: and 
must beg your forgiveness for adding to the trouble already occasioned you, by 
requesting you to be so good as to urge M r - Ogle to finish the Carriage by the 
3 d - of October — On that day, I hope to be in Philadelphia, and on the 5 th - ex- 
pect to proceed on my journey to Alexandria. 

I shall be much disappointed at not finding it completed, as it will not be in 
my power to remain in Philadelphia longer than a day. May I also ask the 
favour of you Sir, to remind M r - Ogle, that there was a trunk, and a cover of 
oil cloth, directed for the Carriage. 

Wish Miss Collins every felicity and offering her my affectionate regard, I 
beg you Sir, to be assured of the high esteem and respect of 

Ann H. Lee. 

M r - Collins 

Addressed: Zacheus Collins Esqire 

Endorsed: M rs - Gen 1 - Lee. Sept. 20, 1813 from Long Branch 1 

Before the last of September Ann was back in their cozy little house 
in Alexandria, and she received word that her husband had reached his 

Barbadoes Aug. 13 th 13 

I wrote to you by the Cartel which sailed 2 or 3 days ago. & sent sundry little 
matters to you. Mr & Mrr Higginbotham go tomorrow I hear & altho I am 
confined — shall endeavor to send the other matters before left, viz a ring for 
keys enclosed — a bermuda pearl (curiosity only) enclosed — 5 or 6 doz best 
brandy; 6 or 7 best madeira — a bag of Coffee, d. z ( ?) cocoa nut & 1 or 2 lbs of 
brown sugar — a pair of the best sort of spectacles which I hope you may live 
long to use. 

For our poor children this hope is more & more ardent, as I more & more 
am convinced they will soon loose their father. I pray always for you & them & 
have much to write to you about y r house I wish to purchase but must defer it. 2 

Your H: L 


Mrr A H Lee 

Fav.d by Alexandria 

M« Higginbotham [U] S — 

111 as Harry Lee was, his first thought upon stepping ashore, as this 
letter shows, was of his wife and children. The spectacles he sent to 
Ann could scarcely have been of much use to her! But what treasures 
for the children were the pearl and the cocoanut! And how delicious 
the West Indies brown sugar must have tasted! 

1 Richard Bland Lee Papers, 1700-1825, Library of Congress. 

"Original letter from H. Lee to Mrs. A. H. Lee, Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 



Perhaps Ann’s heart lost a beat when she read the last paragraph of 
her husband’s letter. His farewell gift to her she kept always. It was a 
gold and black-enameled brooch containing a lock of his hair." From 
that time, she wore it every day, even at the hour of her death. 

In another letter her husband seems to have regained something of 
his former optimism, for he says: "I entertain at length some reason to 
beleive that the sea and this clime will releive me completely from my 
mob injurys.” But a few weeks after his arrival he begins to think of 
returning home: "I propose to sail after the equinox for Gaudaloupe, 
there spend a few weeks, then go to the Havannah where stay till I 
can get a vessel to Charlestown. This circuit I adopt because the Chesa- 
peake will remain blockaded as long as this cursed war continues, & of 
course I could not enter it, unless Sir John Warren should give me a 
new proof of his goodness which I am unwilling in my changed & 
changing Condition to solicit: and I think he would not be willing to 
grant it a second time. ...” 

In a letter to Carter of August 15, he feels certain he can soon be with 
his family: 

Hoping & beleiving that my very dear son not only is to his mother a help & 
comfort, but that he sets an example to his brothers & sisters & that he improves 
himself in literature, I sent him a gun by the last ship, & now send to him some 
flints of the best kind, some powder & shot & a flask & shot pouch: If God 
Almighty should bless my endeavors to recover my health I shall return directly 
afterwards to my family, & while I shall look around on all with inexpressible 
delight, I shall especially mark my eldest boy, not only because he is first in 
the order of nature, but because he has been from the hour of his birth un- 
changeably my delight. 

You must give to your brother Henry such of the agats as are small, & suit 
pistols — The rest give to your Mamma to put away for your use — they ought to 
last you, until you reach manhood. Kiss your dear & afflicted sister Anne & be 
to her a good kind & loving brother. 

Pity & comfort her in her deep affliction for my sake. 

Oh that she had come with me. Tell Smith I shall bring him, a gun with me 
with the same articles I now send him — Bid him to recollect how much I love 
him & to be sure to grow up the good & useful boy I have always predicted. 
Hug my dear Robert for me & kiss little Mildred to whom I sent a present of 
letters among some things for your mother & to whom I now send a little pearl 
in my letter to her mamma. God bless you & protect you my dear Carter with 
all my family. 

Your father 

H: Lee 

“Statement to author by Ann Lee's great granddaughter, Mrs. Ellin Lee Rhea, who inherited 
this heirloom. 



Aug. 13 

Look in the dictionary for the word "agat” & then you will know its meaning. 
So always do whenever you meet with a word, you do not understand. 

C. C. Lee 

[Written on next leaf in handwriting of Charles Carter Lee:] 

Copy of Post-script to the enclosed letter Now my dear boy use yourself to 
system & order — Put your gun always in the same place — keep her clean, never 
put her up with a charge in her. 

Put your powder, ball, flints, &c. all in their respective places — Waste 
nothing, but make every thing last as long as possible. 4 

[On the verso of this second sheet is written in Charles Carter Lee’s hand- 

Copy of P. S. & Direction of a letter from my father dated Augt 17 th 

Favoured by Higginbothom 
with a small pencil. 


Charles Carter Lee 

U. States 

An interesting record of these gifts to the family appears in a long 
lost journal kept by Harry Lee during his years in the West Indies. It is 
a plain, leather-bound blank book, four and a half inches by six and a 
half in size. The paper is the durable rag linen typical of the late eight- 
eenth century. Although slight in bulk and filled with seemingly 
extraneous matter, the journal is one of the most revealing of the Lee 
documents. It was discovered and preserved by Dr. William Moseley 
Brown of Clarendon, Virginia, its present owner. Found originally at 
Dungeness, Cumberland Island, Georgia, in 1818, it was sent in 1866 
to Light-Horse Harry Lee’s son, Robert E. Lee, in Lexington after he 
had accepted the presidency of Washington College. Shortly after his 
death October 12, 1870, the document disappeared from his collection 
of family letters and papers and was not found until recently. 5 

The document is not a journal or diary in the customary sense. Lee 
himself explains its contents in a single line on the page inside the book 
cover: "Athenaeus — an Egyptian philosopher — his Deipnosophisti.” 

4 Copy of letter from H. Lee to Charles Carter Lee, August IS, 1813, from original. Robert 
E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 

c This is the first public announcement of the interesting discovery and the first publication of 
excerpts from the journal. Permission for their use exclusively in these pages has been gener- 
ously given the author by Dr. Brown. 



According to Dr. Harold W. Miller of the Library of Congress: "The 
word 'deipnosophisti’ is derived literally from two Greek words mean- 
ing dinner and those who are learned. The compounded word means, 
therefore, 'expert at dining’; its application as the title of the literary- 
work of Athenaeus is extended to embrace the variety of topics of con- 
versation, literary, moral, aesthetic, which arise ordinarily in the dinner 
conversation, and has come to mean, semantically, 'journal’ or 'diary.’ ” 

Here, accordingly, is Lee’s own deipnosophisti: a few of his personal 
observations about people, life, events, philosophers, and historians, 
their theories and maxims, the memoranda of goods and articles sent 
his family, some brief excerpts from the classics, evidently from mem- 
ory, and written by Lee in Latin, Spanish, French, and English. Lee’s 
reference to Athenaeus as "an Egyptian,” arises, Dr. Miller concludes, 
from the fact that this Greek philosopher traveled extensively in Egypt 
and in his own works used many quotations from those he termed "the 
Egyptian Wise Men.” 

Aside from its scholarly aspects, Lee’s journal is, in a sense, his last 
will and testament. For he records the names of strangers who opened 
their doors to him, an ill and impoverished wanderer, in deep distress 
of mind and body, who gave him food and shelter, medical assistance, 
books, and courtesy of the heart. He records the names of these kind 
English men and women in such a manner that it is a charge to his fam- 
ily and his friends to render thanks in his name: 

I owe a life of gratitude to Sir George Beckwith, John Trotman, Thos. Ap- 
plewhaite, and family, including his grandson Booth, John F. Alleyne, W. 
Osley, Pierpont Law, Giles Hollingsworth, Mrs. Paul, Mrs. Eddy. See my letr. 
to Oxley. 

Also much to John Beckler, attor. gen., Mr. Coithurst, King’s advocate, Mr. 
George Hallam, Collector, Mr. and Mrs. Bullock, Judge Joshua Getting, Gen. 
Williams, Mr. Goring, Gov. ( ?) Graithwaite, Mr. Best, & Mr. Grersat. 

The volume contains a record of expenditures, the only one Lee was 
known to keep. The items mentioned in his letters of 1813 to his family, 
which are quoted in these pages are thus further confirmed and given in 
greater detail: 

Aug. 6th, ’13 — Articles sent by the cartel for my family to be delivered to my 
son H. L. in Washington: 7 gowns, pins, needles, thread, silk, gloves, cambric, 
&c. amounting to DS. 47.50. — 4 pieces irish linen, 9 yards blue cloth — 1 piece 
dimity, 7 yards marseilles white, ditto striped, 12 vest patterns. — a stuffed fish 
taken at sea on our voyage called [illegible] and the back bone of a small shark 
also taken, with a pearl found at Bermuda, — cinders from Mt. Aetna — a keg of 
phil and 2 jars tamarind — a copper kettle for washing, a fish trap — a gun 



for C.C.L., a box of shells for A.H.L., an indian war club, S Wilberforce 

on religion. — Since sent by Mr. Higginbotham powder horn, shot bag, agats, 
powder and shot for my dear son C.C.L., 5 doz. old spirits — bag of coffee, bag 
of bacon. . . . 

By the brig Mahoney, Capt. Wm. Sullivan, Boston, some trifles for Mrs. Lee. 
— By Captain Graham, some of like sort. — By Mr. Dider also like things.- — - 
Every vessel from this port arrived in U. S. 

Jn. 15— By Dieder, the world and its quarters, well secured in Osnabigs[r] 
supercargo, 2 boxes of wine, 1 flour bb. with a loaf sugar, a cheese, a book for 
Anne two sermons, coffee, and ginger & one or two small boxes with liquors— 
all to Charles Burrel [ ?], Baltimore, expected to be forwarded thro’ Mr. 

His family was constantly in his thought. He wrote Ann: 

My heart never turns from you a moment, & all dear to it pass hourly in re- 
view of my minds eye. ... So rare and precious are your opportunitys. . . . 
Again he said: 

Some few conveniences were sent to you & by the only two opportunitys 
which have offered since my arrival. I hope they have or will safely reach you. 
Some articles as mentioned in some of my letters remain here & I apprehend 
will long remain for want of safe conveyance, no more Cartels which afford 
the best conveyance are likely to be wanted, as our intercourse by sea seems 
nearly excluded & such intercourse only give prisoners to the enemy of which 
all here have been sent to America. I have never rec d - a letter from you or any 
of my friends & I now do not expect to hear from home. 

Another time, overcome with pain and loneliness, and yearning for 
his wife and children, he contemplated the hourly approach of death, 
and wrote his wife: 

. . . altho surrounded as I am by a most urband & hospitable Gentry, who 
lavish their kind attentions on me, my Anne & my Carter cheifly engage my 

The hand of the first and the education of the last furnish employment to 
them, oh that I had brought my daughter with me in spite of herself. It was a 
fathers duty & I shall never cease reproaching myself with the omission unless 
I find her well. The last I commit to the hands which now protect him as it 
may not be my fortune ever to see him even should my present hopes of 
restored soundness be realized — My age points to the repose of the grave & 
the interjacent sea often stops the meeting of friends. 

Then I consign Carter to Henry who thanks to almighty God tenderly & 
sincerely loves his brothers & sisters — I commend Carter particularly to him 
not only because he is the first in the order of nature which gives to his example 
operating weight with his brothers, but because he has a just generous open 
& noble mind. If he is rightly assisted & guided in his education he will benefit 
Smith & Robert greatly while young by leading them the right course, & here- 
after advance them in their ascent to knowledge when climbing up its ruggy 

Major General Henry Lee (Light-Horse Harry): from the original portrait by Gilbert 
Stuart, now in the possession of Airs. Mildred Lee Francis, Annapolis, Alaryland. 



road. I mean by knowledge that which makes a man wise & useful — Set this 
object plainly and clearly before my dear boys eyes & urge him by a fathers 
love enforced by a brothers love & eloquence to pursue it with unrelaxed zeal 
& vigor. Tell him it is sure to make its possessor good & great. To be the 
last he must be the first — a happy necessity, as the first is most desireable. . . . 

Lee’s only surviving description of Ann, aside from the few brief 
references in his letters to Carter, is contained in the time-stained pages 
of his journal. His feeling for his wife, expressed in a quotation from 
Pope, reveals his admiration for her courage: 

So unaffected, so composed a mind, 

So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refined, 

Heaven as its purest gold, by tortures try’d. 

On the same page Lee quotes two more lines from Pope: 

Calmly he looked on either life & here 
Saw nothing to regret, & there to fear. 

And of these two verses he says: "I have always thought the first ap- 
plied to my wife & the last to me.” 

The discovery of Lee’s letters of 1813 to his family, his journal, and 
Ann’s five letters, together with the references to Lee in the Shippen 
Papers and in Carter Lee’s reminiscences — all this new material should 
change profoundly the long-accepted view of the character of Light- 
Horse Harry Lee. 


Notwithstanding his illness, Lee determined to give Carter a definite 
course of instruction. This is evident from other excerpts from his letter 
to Ann of September 3, 1813: 

I shall continue to write for my Carters good hoping that you will not only 
make him read my letters every week but that you will make him copy them in 
a quire of paper covered & stitched as a book. This I request as the darling 
child not only was dear to me from birth, but has tenderly loved me from 
the dawn of reason if I do not deceive myself. Consequently I infer that he 
will heed my opinions & thus that I shall promote his good. 

Through Carter, his father frequently expressed his desire of reach- 
ing Smith and Robert. In outlining to his wife the studies he prescribed 
for their fifteen-year-old son, he said: 

In my selection for his mental improvement I have put down only some few 
books & those I most approve. When he is fit to search into the sciences — - 
mathematics especially Euclid — natural Philosophy theoretic & experimental — 
Lock s whole work — Washingtons official letters wherein the just good hon- 
orable man is plainly to be seen even by a young reader — But it is useless for 
me to advise or you to exhort unless you can entice his young mind to the love 
of diligent study. . . . 



The mind claims rightly the first attention, for knowledge leads to virtue 
the distinctive the good & the end of man. But how can I so well express the 
supremacy of virtue as by recurring to the most learned of the romans with 
Whom I have just recommended my sons intimate acquaintance. . . . He ought 
every day to give two hours to English & no books can more inspire him with 
love of literature than Popes Homer & Dryden s tales or fables — . . . [These] 
are enought for two years to come & therefore ought to be read over & over. 
I do not mention Greek tho I trust the time will come when he will be master 
of both languages. . . . 

Dancing fencing swimming, riding shooting & pugilistical adroitness are all 
in their place worthy of due attention. The first two are easily acquired & serve 
to give the body its best posture which from habit become fixt — pleases the 
fair sex, to please whom is among our secondary duty s & teaches us to defend 
ourselves with the sword, when unavoidable — A good boy will remember that 
he is to draw his sword when a man, but in self defence & always to return it 
to the scabbard when he has defenced himself. 

At this point Harry Lee addresses Carter in the same letter: 

Swimming enables you to conserve life sometimes & therefore becomes in 
some degree a duty. Riding as well as boxing by rule gives grace to the body, 
are agreable exercises, encrease agility & add manliness to the contour or 
looks. In the acquirement of these qualifications, let him never forget that they 
go to aid the body only & therefore must not engross the mind or dissipate 
time, the most pretious part of a youths property. To be genteel in manner & 
deportment is very becoming & ought to be sought diligently tho’ not prized 

In another paragraph he admonishes Henry: "I pray you my dear 
Henry opposed as is unhappily your own example, to fix him in the habit 
of rising early & going to bed early. ...” 

Again he says to Henry : 

In no way can you better ensure success than by encouraging your brother 
to read with thorough understanding Virgil Sallust Terence & Cicero espe- 
cially his tracts de amititia de senectute de officiis — Indeed, I wish he would 
be master of every idea & even words in these sublime & instructive pages. Cicero 
all over is most improving to a young man. But unless the latin language is 
critically taught by his preceptor he never can perceive the beauty s of the 
authors recommended & therefore will never taste that delight they afford 
which ensures edification & bestows with it a new incentive to far[th]er 
study. . . . 

To Ann he writes: "The subject of this let r is so near to my heart that 
I shall never tire of it — Yet I must stop, for tho I am better than I have 
ever been since I was in Baltimore, still I am unfit for much exertion. 

y y 

Lee remained in the Barbados until January, 1814, when he sailed for 
Porto Rico. The following summer he endeavored to get a passport to 



return to the United States but was prevented by the British blockade 
of the coast. In 1815 he was at San Pedro. No record of the family in 
Alexandria is available from the autumn of 1813 to the summer of 1816. 
Letters of that period are undoubtedly extant but have not yet been 
found. Meanwhile, through his father’s letters, his mother’s diligent 
supervision, and possibly through his school or a private tutor, Carter 
was prepared to enter Harvard College, "the seminary of my choice,” 
his father says. Lee’s own college, Princeton, had not yet fully revived 
from the blows it suffered during the Revolution. 

At this time a grave financial struggle was again confronting Ann 
Lee. The trust fund established by her father, exclusively for her use 
and for her children, consisted principally of stock in the Bank of Vir- 
ginia. The dividends were to comprise her income, the principal to be 
divided among her children after her death. Besides this stock there 
was some property — a few houses and farms of no large monetary value 
— some of which one of her sisters had left her. At first the bank stock 
yielded approximately $1,210.00 annually. But in 1816 this income was 
suddenly reduced one half. This reduction is explained in Ann’s unpub- 
lished letter to Carter, written from Alexandria, May 8, 1816: 

My dear Carter, 

I enclose you $100 which you wrote for; and hope they will arrive in time to 
discharge your quarter bill when it becomes due — Mr- M c Kenna has been so 
good as to furnish a treasury note, consequently the exchange will be triffling. I 
wrote you a long letter by M r - Dwight, which must have reached you before 
this — - 

In addition to what I then said to you my dear, on the necessity of observing 
a strict econemy in your pecuniary concerns, I must now inform you, that it is 
believed, that the Virginia Bank will not divide the next dividend day; that is, 
the, stockholders will receive no interest on their stock — This arrangement is 
occasioned, by the Virginia legislature having passed a law, obliging the Bank 
to pay specia, which has so distressed her, that her stock has fallen below par — 
You know my dear Carter that my principal resource is derived from that par- 
ticular Bank, which has hitherto yielded me $1210 annually, which is more 
than half my income — I will make no comments on the subject, but leave it to 
your own judgement to decide, whether such a diminuition of income, will not 
compel us to lessen our expenses in a proportionate degree — I would strenu- 
ously advise you not to subscribe to balls, to join in parties, or incur any un- 
necessary expense, for at least a year to come, till we see what will be the issue 
of the present state of things in this part of the world for I do assure you, it 
is agreed by one and all, that there never was a period, when it was so difficult 
to procure money, and never was there such a demand for it, from the ex- 
horbitant prices, put upon every article of life — It will be less wounding to 
your feelings my dear Carter, to withhold your name from a subscription, or to 



renounce an expensive amusement, than to be recalled from College before 
your education is completed, because your Mothers finances will not admit of 
your remaining longer; which must necessarily be the case, if you expend 
more than a certain sum — You have never written me exactly an account of 
your whole expenses, I mean such expenses as are unavoidable — Make a faith- 
ful statement of every necessary expense separately, such as College bills, board, 
room rent, & furniture, fuel, washing, etc. &c, — I hope you will want no clothes 
now, but pantaloons — I received a letter from your Papa lately, and a large 
packet for Henry — It was dated February 22 d — Port au Prince — He speaks of 
his health as being very bad, but seems to expect restoration from the salubrity 
of the climate. I fear Ann will not so far conquer her indolent habit, & dislike 
of writing as to afford you the intelligence you have solicited from her — There- 
fore will give you a hasty account of your young friends — Phill courted Mary 
Braxton the day he went to Arlington, with Edward, before you left home — He 
did not receive a decisive answer, but has not I believe renewed the subject — 
He is living at Shirley — Lucy Randolph is to be married next tuesday to D.r 
Mason — Cornelia Turbeville has rejected Edmond Brook — M. r Swann’s family 
are in deep mourning for the death of good M. rs Selden — All your other ac- 
quaintances go on as usual. — I sent to inquire of Mr- Hume, where you must 
direct to him; his answer was, he would write & inform you; if he has not, you 
had better write, & direct to him in Alexandria. 

I am pleased with your letter to M r - Callett— Never forget to be grateful to 
him, and to manifest it through life — You write much more correctly than you 
did, but are still careless — In directing your letter to M. r Callett, you omited 
to put, M r -> or Esquire — It was a triffling omission, but had better been attended 
to — I wish you to write to M. r M c Kenna — In offering your regards to your 
friends, in your letters to me, you have neglected to mention M r - Holbrook, 
repair the omission in your next; and remember sometimes, good William Page, 
who always brings from the office your letters — I wish you also to write to your 
Uncle Fitzhug[h] [torn] the letter to Alexandria, & to my care — Mildred is 
much [indis-] [torn] posed with a bad cough, and has been in my room all day, 
annoying me not a little, while writing to you— She desires I will tell you, she 
went to Church on Sunday last, that M.r Norris preached a lovely sermon, but 
that M r - Collany kept such a talking & singing, she could not tell you much 
about it, tho’ she remembers, that M.r Norris said, "we do that which we ou^ht 
not to do, and leave undone that which we ought to do” — I expect to live in M. r 
Charles Lee’s house, & only wait Alexander’s removal from it, to take pos- 
session: which she says will be next week— Your Sisters & Brothers express 
great affection for you, and anxiety to see you — I am afraid my health is getting 
very bad again, as I have been sick for a fortnight with my old complaints. 
God! bless you my dear child, forget not when our final separation takes place, 
to cherish my counsels. 6 

Your most affectionate 


Ann H. Lee. 

"Original letter from Ann H. Lee to Charles Carter Lee. Robert E. Lee Memorial Founda- 
tion, Inc. 



Acknowledge the receipt of this, & the enclosed Our love to dear Shirley. 

M. r Charles Carter Lee 50 

Harvard College 
Cambridge, near 

Massachusetts. Boston. 

Ann’s next letter to Carter, also written from Alexandria, is dated 
July 17, 1816: 

My dear Carter, 

I received your letter, acknowledging mine, enclosing money — I shall not be 
at home when your bills will next become due, but if you will write to M. r 
McKenna, he will furnish money to discharge them — You will do well to write 
for no more, than is absolutely necessary, and to demand as little as possible, 
for what is called pocket money — It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, that all 
my expenses must be diminished — I dare say you know enough of my pecuniary 
matters, to know, that my principal resource was derived from the Bank of 
Virginia — That Bank has declared a dividend, which reduces the money I 
draw from it, to one half — Previous to the war, the dividend was $1440 annu- 
ally; since that period, $1210 — It is now $605 — [twelve indecipherable words 
crossed out] I am lessening my expenses in every way — Have sent off two of the 
servants, Sebrey & William, & when I leave home, shall hire out Louis — I 
fear the next sacrifice must be the horses — We have very seldom more than one 
dish on the table, of meat, to the great discomfort of my young Ladies & 
Gentlemen, whom you know have various tastes — It requires a length of time 
every night, to determine what shall be brought next morning from market — As 
there is to be but one dish, all cannot be pleased: Ann prefers fowls, but they are 
so high, that they are sparingly delt in; and if brought to table, scarcely, a back, 
falls to Smith & Robert’s share, so that they rather not be tantalized with the 
sight of them; and generally urge the purchase of veal; while Mildred is as 
solicitous, that whortleberries or cherries should compose our dinner. 

In consequence of the increased infirmity of the old greys, I have been forced 
to part with them, for only $70, and have purchased a pair of blacks — We com- 
menced our journey upwards this day week; but after getting six miles above 
Ravensworth, the blacks refused to go farther and I decided on coming home, 
& endeavouring to sell them — They are good horses, but not broken well, & 
Nat is an unskilful driver — So here we are, at a loss to say when we shall again 
set out — I have been much [word crossed out] indisposed since my return, and 
still continue so. The season is too far advanced for me to be in the lower 
Country, but here I must wait till I can sell the horses; as I cannot raise money 
in any other way, to buy another pair. — My dear Carter, I cannot have the 
satisfaction of permitting you to come home this vacation — You must wait 
till better times — I shall be obliged to trespass farther on the fund laid up for 
your College expenses, to defray my own; & it is now considerably reduced — 
It is impossible for me to collect the hire of negroes, such is the distress for 
money in this country; and the dividends will be less in these Banks too, at 



the next division.- — Every article of life is higher than was ever known; and the 
prospect for the next year most gloomy, from the uncommon coldness of the 
weather, which is destroying the crops — Fires are as necessary, as they are early 
in the spring, and have been so, with the exception of a few weeks the whole 
season. These money matters, as you say, occupy the greater proportion of my 
letters: but in future I shall dwell less on the subject; as I am sure I have said 
enough, to convince you of the great necessity of your being strictly economical 
if you wish to remain at College; for one thing is now certain, that I, and my 
family must greatly restrict ourselves — We have no alternative — We cannot 
borrow money, because we cannot repay it; the interest of our mon[e]y being 
only sufficient for each years expenditure [paper torn] live my dear in the same 
house, & I presume are in[timately ?] [paper torn] associated, with two young 
Gentlemen much richer than yourself, and I fear, are excited by false shame to 
enter into the same expenses that they do — Carter, my dear Son, acquire that 
noble independence of spirit, which would cause you to blush at incurring an 
expense, you could not in justice to your family afford — I should not hesitate in 
your situation, if asked to join my companions in any amusements which would 
add to my expenses, to tell them, that I found it honorable to retrench my ex- 
penses, at least for a [indecipherable word crossed out] time, inasmuch, as my 
fortune consisted in Bank stock, and the injury the Banks had sustained, from 
the interruption of commerce, & from being forced to resume specie payments 
sooner than they were prepared to do, had obliged them to curtail the divi- 
dends, one half, — If your friends are worthy your regard, they will applaud 
your determination. You must direct to me at Fanquier Court Flouse. 

All your friends enquire after you with much interest — They say they have 
formed high hopes of your character — Disappoint them not I entreat you — Fet 
your ambition be to realize their expectations. 

My dear Carter, I am at times, very unhappy lest you should become a socin- 
ion — If you should, I shall have aided in making you so: as I permited you 
to go to a College, where the principles of that sect were disseminated — Oh! 
pray fervently for faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only rock of your salvation, 
and the only security for your resurrection from the grave ! 7 

Farewell my dear Child 

[Addressed:] Ann H. Fee. 

Mr. Charles Carter Lee PAID 
Harvard College 
near Boston 


Mrs Ann H Lee 





’Original letter, Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 


These lean days in Alexandria were broken for Smith and Robert 
by long visits to Stratford and to Shirley. For Henry had reopened 
Stratford. In the early spring of 1813, a few months before his father 
went to the West Indies, Henry had gone into the army. The appoint- 
ment of Major in the 36th Infantry was given him by President Madi- 
son. After being mustered out, he lived for a short time in Washington. 
But before 1816 he returned to Stratford, where he kept open house 
for his young stepbrothers as well as for his bachelor friends, and re- 
entered local politics. 

In her efforts to economize Ann moved from the house on Cameron 
Street to even smaller quarters, a house on Washington Street belonging 
to the Christ Church property (later used as the rectory). Smith was 
preparing for a career in the navy and thought of Robert’s going into 
the army was beginning to take shape. 

That Carter, in Cambridge, paid heed to his parents’ advice seems 
evident from the fact that he remained at Harvard and graduated sec- 
ond in his class in 1819- 


Lee’s search for health was unavailing. From Port-au-Prince, San 
Domingo, he sailed for New Providence, stopping off at Turk’s Island. 
As his letters to Carter show, he went to Caicos, and on to Nassau. The 
family in Alexandria also received news of his wanderings in a letter 
written December 7, 1816, by one Vincent Gray, from Havana. Gray 
wrote of General Lee’s being "in tolerable good health” and having 
sailed from Nassau for the Windward Islands; said he had informed 
Richard Bland Lee and begged him to give the notice to Mrs. Lee. "If 
I can induce him to return to the U. States,” concludes Mr. Gray, "it will 
afford me infinite pleasure. ...” 

But Lee continued to nurse the delusion that his Spanish physician 
could cure him of his injuries and, with the climate, bring about his 
complete restoration to health. He was unable to continue the biogra- 
phies he had planned. But, no matter how ill he became, he continued 
his letters of instruction and advice to Carter. Destitute and seldom out 
of pain, he strove to instill into his sons what he felt were the true 
values of philosophy, education, and life. He fulfilled his responsibili- 
ties as a father by every means within his power. No complete library 
was accessible to him, yet he never failed to include in his letters, un- 
doubtedly from memory, extensive quotations from the chief figures of 
Greek and Roman civilization. 



Owing to the blockade and the irregularity of mail transportation, as 
well as the apparent failure of his family to write him frequently, Lee 
did not receive many letters from them. One letter from Carter, follow- 
ing him from place to place, was a year in reaching him. His heart 
yearned for news of home. Ann was ill much of the time. She made 
twelve hundred dollars a year provide for the children and keep Carter 
in college. Major Henry was on the Canadian frontier with his regi- 
ment, and later engrossed in the social activities of Washington and 
Richmond. It is easy to see why so few letters from his family reached 

Although a Major General in the United States Army, he received no 
salary. Nor did he have a pension for his former services. Over and 
again had he applied for and obtained pensions for his soldiers of the 
Legion, but never for himself. Sick and penniless, he never complained 
to his family that in his illness he was entirely dependent upon the hos- 
pitality of strangers. 

He remained at Nassau throughout 1817 and through January and 
part of February of the following year. During this period he continued 
his "letters of love and wisdom,’’ as Robert terms them, to Carter. The 
last words received by Carter from his father were written on the ninth 
of February, 1818: 

I send this letter to Mr. Goddard, and with it two books for you, worthy of 
your best attention; one of them the inimitable Cervantes. At length I get off. 
The ship Betsey is in harbor, taking in her cargo, and is destined to some 
Southern port; which, not yet decided. In her, I go; and shall be landed, I 
dare say, as soon as you get this letter. I fear you will be puzzled to read it, 
but it cannot be altered by one afflicted as I am daily. 

God bless my dear Carter. 

Before Lee could land at Savannah and hasten home overland, as he 
planned, he was taken critically ill, and asked to be carried ashore as the 
schooner approached Cumberland Island, oft the coast of Georgia. On 
the south end of the island stood Dungeness, the home of General 
Nathanael Greene’s family, a large, imposing mansion set in groves of 
orange trees, olives, palmettos and live oaks. Lee’s heart was full of 
affectionate memories of his old commander, and he knew he would 
receive from Greene’s children a similar response. 

The account of Lee’s coming to Dungeness and the facts about his 
last days there were told by General Greene’s grandson, Philip M. 
Nightingale, to Charles C. Jones, Jr., who gives the record: 

Early in February, 1818 , about four o’clock in the afternoon, a grandson of 
General Greene — a lad some fifteen years old, who was amusing himself with 



boyish sports about the ample grounds — observed a schooner nearing the 
Dungeness landing. Just before reaching the wharf the schooner came to 
anchor and a boat was lowered. A feeble old man was assisted into the boat 
by the captain and mate, who took their seats beside him, and the three were 
rowed ashore by two sailors. The youth had intermediately gone to the landing 
where he waited to ascertain the object of the visit and to welcome the guest. 
General Lee was lifted from the boat by the sailors, who, making a chair with 
their hands and arms, bore him to the shore. He was pale, emaciated, very 
weak and evidently suffering much pain. There was that about his appearance 
which assured the observer not only of his illness but also of his poverty. He 
was plainly, almost scantily attired. The sailors placed upon the wharf an old 
hair-trunk in a dilapidated condition, and a cask of Madeira wine. General 
Lee brought no other baggage with him. Beckoning the youth to him, he 
inquired who he was. Learning that Mrs. Shaw [the daughter of General 
Greene] was at home, and that he was the grandson of General Greene, he 
[Lee] threw his arms around him, embracing him with marked emotion. . . . 
He then bade him go to the house and say to his aunt, Mrs. Shaw, that General 
Lee was at the wharf and wished the carriage to be sent for him. "Tell her,” 
he added, "I am come purposely to die in the house and in the arms of the 
daughter of my old friend and compatriot.” . . . 

When they arrived at the house, General Lee was so weak that he had to be 
assisted both in getting out of the carriage and in ascending the steps. Having 
received a most cordial welcome from Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, he excused himself 
at once and retired to his room. Such was his feebleness that he kept his room, 
generally leaving it but once a day, and then only for a little while that he 
might take a short walk in the garden. Upon these occasions he always sent for 
young Nightingale to accompany him. Leaning upon the grandson of his 
honored commander, — usually with his arm around his neck, — he would 
slowly and with difficulty descend the steps and then, turning into the garden, 
walk in an avenue which ran through a grove of orange trees. Soon fatigued, 
he would return to the house and again seek repose in his room. Even in these 
short walks he was able to indulge only for a week or ten days after his arrival. 
On but a few occasions was he strong enough to dine with the family, — his 
meals, at his own request, being served in his room. His feebleness becoming 
daily more apparent and oppressive, he was soon entirely unable to leave his 
room. . . . 8 

There were moments, Philip Nightingale told Mr. Jones, when Lee 
spoke with deep feeling of the beauty of the scene from his windows, 
the sea, the rich verdure of the island, and the melodious notes of bird- 
song at dawn. On the one side of Dungeness, bordering the quiet, land- 
locked waters between the island and the mainland, were the marshes 
of Glynn. On the other side, the Atlantic breakers rolled upon the 
white beach of the island, and at high tide would toss spray upon the 

s Charles C. Jones, Jr., Reminiscences of the Last Days. Death, and Burial of Genera! Henry 
Lee. Joel Munsell. Albany, New York, 1870. pages 18-20, 23-24. 

The grave at D Hugeness. 



palmettos and the long, gray Spanish moss swaying from the live oaks. 

Draughts of the water, perhaps medicinal, brought to Lee from a 
spring close to the mansion may have alleviated his sufferings. This 
spring was later named the well of "Henricus Lee.” It was enclosed 
with masonry and preserved, when another house replaced the first 
Dungeness mansion and is the one relic of Lee that is pointed out on 
the island today. 

Young Nightingale spoke of the incident of "Mom Sarah,” his aunt’s 
favorite maid, and "the esteemed and privileged family servant” of 
Dungeness who was selected to wait on General Lee when all other ser- 
vants failed to satisfy him. When "Mom Sarah” first entered his room, 
General Lee, suffering acutely at the moment, hurled his boot at her 
head and ordered her out: 

Entirely unused to such treatment, without saying a word she deliberately 
picked up the boot and threw it back. The effect produced by this strange and 
unexpected retort was marked and instantaneous. The features of the stern 
warrior relaxed. In the midst of his pain and anger a smile passed over his 
countenance, and from that moment until the day of his death he would permit 
no one except 'Mom Sarah” to do him special service . 9 

At this time, shortly before the ceding of Florida to the United States, 
the army and navy were massed in and off southeast Georgia. They were 
to stand by until the Treaty was signed, but their immediate object was 
to dispossess the Spanish regiment, long entrenched on Amelia Island, 
and fly the American flag over Fernandina. They were also instructed 
to preserve the United States’ rights of commerce on the sea, and, on 
land, to protect citizens from depredations of the Seminole Indians. 

The land forces were in command of Colonel James Bankhead. A 
squadron of the American fleet, with Commodore John D. Henley in 
command, was anchored in Cumberland Sound at the mouth of St. 
Mary’s River. The flagship was the United States frigate John Adams. 
(How reminiscent of friendship was that name in the history of the 

Upon the arrival of General Lee at Dungeness, Commodore Henley 
and Colonel Bankhead called upon him to pay their respects, and to 
offer every courtesy and aid in their personal power and in that of the 
service. Two surgeons from the fleet were immediately assigned to at- 
tend General Lee. Arrangements were also made for other officers, two 
at a time, one from the army and one from the navy, to alternate each 

9 Charles C. Jones, Jr., Reminiscences of the Last Days, Death, and Burial of General Henry 
Lee, page 31. 



night in caring for him. The members of the family at Dungeness did all 
they could to ease the suffering of the dying man: 

When it became too great an effort for (General Lee) to leave his room, and 
he realized the fact that his life was fast ebbing away, he became at times very 
depressed and irritable. The wound which he had received in Baltimore caused 
him almost incessant suffering. It seriously affected his bladder. When the 
paroxysms of extreme agony were upon him, and they recurred at short inter- 
vals, his exhibitions of commingled rage and anguish were often terrible. . . . 

At such times his groans would fill the house and wring the hearts of those 
who watched by his side, anxious, but unable to render him that alleviation 
which his vast sufferings loudly demanded. Many important remedies which 
modern ingenuity and professional skill have contrived were then unknown to 
the surgeon; and the patient languished amid physical tortures which later 
medical aid could have materially mitigated. . . . 

February passed and the first weeks of March and Lee was still suf- 
fering. Fie died on Wednesday, March twenty-fifth. 

i 1 i 1 

The log book of the United States frigate John Adams records that on 
Thursday, March 26, 1818, "the Prometheus took the guard, landed 
the Marines on Cumberland Island, fired minute guns during the 
Funeral procession of the (late) General Lee. ...” 

All the last offices and arrangements for the funeral of General Lee 
were directed by Commodore Henley. The flags on every ship in Cum- 
berland Sound were dropped to half-mast. Two sheathed swords were 
crossed upon the coffin. The army and navy officers, who had become 
Lee’s closest friends, acted as pallbearers. To the military escort of 
marines from the flagship was added a company of infantry from Fer- 
nandina. The army band marched with them, beating muffled drums. 
All the officers of the army and navy stationed near by, and the citizens 
of Cumberland, Amelia Island, and St. Mary’s took part in the funeral 

Lee was buried in the Greene family burial ground, a beautiful shel- 
tered spot looking out to sea. The navy’s salute — fifteen guns — boomed 
from the flagship. Three ruffles of the drum marked the passing of a 
major general of the United States Army, while the troops stood at 
present arms. Taps sounded and the last volleys of musketry were fired 
over the grave. 10 

i 1 i i 

In Alexandria they speak of it today: how, sometime in April, in the 

10 In 1913 the body of Lee was removed from Cumberland Island to Lexington, Virginia, 
where it was placed in the Lee Chapel of Washington and Lee University, beside that of his 
son. Robert. 



year 1818, a boy came to the house on Cameron Street where Mrs. Gen- 
eral Lee lived, and gave her the letter which told of her husband’s death. 

The Daily National Intelligencer of Washington carried the notice 
on Wednesday, April 8, 1818: 


In the 6lst year of his age, on the 25th March last, at the house of a friend, 
on Cumberland Island, Georgia, on his return from the West Indies to his 
native state, Virginia, Major General HENRY LEE, a conspicuous officer in 
the Revolutionary Army. 

He entered as a captain of cavalry, in the Virginia line, at the age of 19, 
in which situation he soon commanded the respect and attention of his coun- 
try, by his active and daring enterprize, and the confidence of the illustrious 
commander-in-chief of the military forces of the United States; a confidence 
which continued through life. He was rapidly promoted to the rank of Major, 
and soon after to that of Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of a separate 
legionary corps. While Major, he planned and executed the celebrated attack 
on the enemy’s post at Paulus Hook, opposite to the city of New York; their 
head-quarters; surprized and took the garrison, under the eye of the British 
army and navy, and safely conducted his prisoners into the American lines, 
many miles distant from the post taken. There are few enterprizes to be found 
on military record, equal in hazard or difficulty, or conducted with more con- 
summate skill and daring courage. It was, too, accomplished without loss, 
filled the camp of the enemy with shame and astonishment, and shed an un- 
fading lustre on the American arms. Sometime after he accompanied General 
Greene to the southern department of the United States, subsequent to the 
memorable and disastrous battle of Camden, which reduced under the power 
of the enemy the three states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. 
The many brilliant achievements which he performed in that difficult and 
arduous war, under this celebrated and consummate commander, it is not neces- 
sary to enumerate; they are so many illustrious monuments of American cour- 
age and prowess, which, in all future ages, will be the theme of historic praise 
of grateful recollection by his countrymen, and of ardent imitation by every 
brave and patriotic soldier. Those states were recovered from the enemy. The 
country enjoys in peace, independence and liberty, the benefits of his useful 
service. All that remains to him, is a grave and the glory of his deeds. . . . 

At the close of the revolutionary war, he returned to the walks of civil life. 
He was often a member of the Legislature of the state of Virginia; one of its 
delegates to Congress under the confederation, and one of the convention which 
adopted the present constitution of the United States, and which he supported; 
three years Governor of the state, and afterwards a Representative in the 
Congress of the United States, under the present organization. . . . 

Every public station to which he was called he filled with dignity and pro- 

In private life he was kind, hospitable, and generous. Too ardent in the 



pursuit of his objects — too confident in others, he wanted that prudence which 
is necessary to guard against imposition and pecuniary losses, and accumulate 
wealth. Like many other illustrious commanders and patriots, he has died poor. 

He has left behind him a valuable historical work, entitled Memoirs of the 
war in the Southern Department of the United States. . . . 


Z'" || SHE death of Light-Horse Harry Lee made Henry, the only surviv- 
ing son of his marriage to Matilda, the master of Stratford. 
-i-L (Henry was the fourth of his family to bear the name.) As a 
matter of fact Henry had been living at Stratford as the head of the house 
for some years but he did not own the plantation legally until his 
father’s life tenure was ended in 1818. 

On June 10 of this year his friend F. W. Gilmer, of Richmond, 
wrote him: "If I could have urged any topics of consolation to you, my 
dear Lee, on the death of your illustrious Father, I should not have been 
behind Mr. King or any one else in condoling with you. But it seemed 
to me more unkind than friendly to be vexing you in the first hour of 
your sorrow, with all the commonplace stuff in praise of that lingering 
& uncertain Physician — Time, which is so strenuously recommended to 
Cicero by Sulpitius. Such consolation is unworthy both of your regret 
and of your character.” 

In this letter Gilmer also gave his estimate of Major Henry’s abilities 
and urged him to make use of his talents: "I wish that you had some- 
thing of my impatient spirit, which is only content while oppressed 
with occupation. The more proofs you give about your genius, the 
more intolerant I become of the [illegible] difference which alone [ob- 
structs?] your march to distinction. Tho’ I feel as sensibly as you [il- 
legible] the comparative insignificance of the theatre on which it is 
our destiny to act, I do not find that consideration a sufficient excuse for 
a supine indifference to our own and our countries glory. Is there not 
something in the very insignificance of our age & cotemporaries which 
should prompt us to nobler aspirations? If you would but turn with 
systematic industry, the wandering enthusiasm of your genius to the 
regular pursuit of any one object whatever it may be, it requires no 
ghost to announce the eminence you will attain.” 1 

Major Henry had returned to the Great House shortly after he was 
mustered out of the army in 1815. Born at Stratford May 28, 1787, his 
first years had been spent there, in the governor’s mansion in Richmond 
and in Philadelphia. Aside from his father’s informal tutoring he re- 
ceived a more academic training than his half brothers. After his brief 
course at Washington College, Lexington, the year his half brother 
Robert was born, he entered the College of William and Mary where 

1 Lee Manuscript : Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation. 
[ 366 ] 



he remained two or three years. Entering local politics in 1810, Henry 
was elected for three successive terms to represent Westmoreland Coun- 
ty in the Virginia House of Delegates. When his family moved from 
Stratford to Alexandria, Henry was still in the General Assembly. On 
April 7, 1813, he was appointed a major in the 36th regiment of United 
States Infantry, by President Madison. He saw service on the Canadian 
frontier, first as aide-de-camp to General James Wilkinson and after- 
ward to General George Izard of South Carolina. General Izard was a 
family connection of the Lees by his marriage to Tom Shippen’s widow, 
Elizabeth Farley Shippen. On Lee’s return from Canada he was widely 
entertained in New York. Here, according to F. W. Alexander, he met 
the famous Scotch critic, Jeffrey, and "both men were much sought after 
in society on account of their brilliant conversational powers.” Henry 
A. Wise, a contemporary, says of Lee: "He was not handsome as his 
half brother, General Robert E. Lee; but rather ugly in face, a mouth 
without a line of the bow of Diana about it, and nose not cut clean and 
classic, but rather meaty . . . but he was one of the most attractive men 
in conversation we ever listened to.” Of Lee, G. W. Beale repeats the 
Westmoreland tradition: "He was a brilliant conversationalist, the 
charm of old and young alike save when, as was some times the case, a 
satirical spirit seasoned his talk too heavily with sarcasm. This feature 
of his character has somewhat tinged his writings.” 

From New York Major Lee went to Washington, where, with a num- 
ber of other young officers also retiring from military and naval service, 
he became one of the beaux of the Capital city. 

It is apparent from his father’s letters that Major Henry was in fre- 
quent touch with the Stratford family in Alexandria. To repeat his 
father’s phrase: "Henry . . . thanks to Almighty God tenderly and 
sincerely loves his brothers and sisters.” And Carter refers to him as 
"my full, in affection, though half in blood, brother Henry.” All the 
family were devoted to him and the happiest relations existed between 
them. Henry was especially kind and generous to Carter, Smith and 
Robert. 2 

Despite Ann Lee’s straitened circumstances and his father’s misfor- 
tunes, young Henry appears to have had gay times with his companions 
in Washington and equally pleasant days at Stratford. His half brothers 
shared in the good times there and especially enjoyed the sports and 
deer hunts through the Stratford forests. 

-’Statement to author by Mildred Lee Francis, daughter of Carter. 


The entrance road to Stratford. 



Major Henry returned to the political "arena” in Westmoreland, 
which he had abandoned temporarily for "the field of Mars” — as he 
would have expressed it. He aspired to higher honors than were af- 
forded a member of the State Assembly and in the fall of 1816 an- 
nounced his candidacy for Congress. But his ambitions were not real- 
ized; he was defeated in the election. 

Among Major Henry’s intimate friends whose letters to him have 
survived were Major William Clarke Somerville of St. Mary’s County, 
Maryland, F. W. Gilmer of Richmond, J. B. Nicholson and Major H. 
Hunt. His acquaintance with the belles of Washington and New York 
was extensive. Of one in particular, "Miss Serena,” Nicholson wrote 
him soon after Lee’s departure for Westmoreland: 

"... Serena was all loveliness when I left New York, but she is 
not for a Virginian: You mistake, I did not ever dare to look upon her 
but as a friend, I was not your rival. If you had possessed ten thousand 
a year — she would long ere this been M rs Lee — of this enough. 

"If I can in my travels manage matters I will not fail to come to your 
part of the country. I shall return to Virginia, but I shall be happy to 
hear from you in Philadelphia. I have much to talk to you about when 
it may be of our good fortune to meet, which I hope it may be shortly; 
But I hope you will get married, to some fine woman. It is much better 
than remain as we are — I only wish I was. ...” 

Major Hunt also writes the Washington chit-chat: 

Washington May 1st 1816 

Dear Lee 

I last night had a peep at the new staff & saw your name as Ass. Insp. Gen. 1 
for the Southern Division. Wool Insp. r gen 1 for the North. Mullany Q M 
Gen. 1 &c — Why have you not been up? Mrs. C. has left us [illegible] disap- 
pointed at not seeing you. Our whole family will leave here immediately. Much 
disgusted. Our city is dull & dusty. Lt Dallas is still pushing at Miss Law. 
. . . Geo. D. will be married next month. Quite too warm. Congress put 
down the commissioners for rebuilding. Van Ness was afterwards offered, as 
the superintendent but was rejected by the senate. Col Lane has the appoint- 
ment. Mr. R. B. Lee is appointed Commissioner for settling old war claims. 
Another accountant is given to the War Dep.t [Hjagner is appointed — We 
have no news here, damn glad to get rid of Congress. Somerville passed through 
this place a few days ago for Balt. m Bankhead is here. I would advise you not 
to go into the Army. God bless you — 

Besides the gossip about people and events in his voluminous cor- 
respondence from Stratford, Major Henry, as Gilmer’s letters show, 
delighted in long critical dissertations on poets, essayists, history and 



literature. In one of Gilmer’s lengthy letters of February, 1816, he 
thanks Lee "for your friendship in inviting me to Stratford — a meet 
place for collecting into one reservoir these sweet fountains, for whose 
streams I have thirsted thro’ the desert of life.” 

Hunt continues to keep Major Henry en rapport with all that goes on 
in Washington. He gives a clue to "Miss Serena’s” successor in the af- 
fections of the young master of the Great House and forecasts the 
identity of the next mistress of Stratford Hall: 

Washington March 18 th 1816. 

Dear Lee 

I should have written to you sooner; but expected to see you in this place be- 
fore now. M r s C is still here & expresses great anxiety to see you. She will 
remain during this month. There is a report that Dallas will leave here in May, 
either to go to Russia, or to be president of the National Bank. George has 
made up all differences with Miss N. & will return to Philadelphia in June & 
be married. There is a talk of Dexter succeeding Dallas. 

On Saturday night a caucus was held for President & Vice President. Monroe 
& Tomkins were recommended. This meets my approbation. Somerville has 
just returned here from New York. He talks in the most extravagant stile of 
Miss Henderson & Miss Magt Livingston. I dare not attempt to imitate his lan- 
guage. Poor Angelica died on the 8 th of Jany- Miss Serena he says is as charming 
& interesting as ever, but no prospect of matrimony The belles are leaving Wash- 
ington, [but] much execution was done by them. I lost my heart with a little 
girl from Baltimore but unfortunately she was engaged. Your neighbor Miss 
McCarty has been here dashing in a fine carriage. She is now with M rs Robin- 
son. Miss Law keeps much in retirement, acting the dignifyed character. It is 
supposed that she is engaged to Biddle. 

There are many large fortunes here, but I cannot bend my views to such 
sordid game. 

The Staff bill of the Army, it is supposed will not pass. Somorville sends his 
best respects to you. Miss Rush gave him the cut direct in Philadelphia. He 
does not like to talk of that place. M. r King [son of Rufus King] of New 
York has written to you repeatedly, but fears his letters did not reach you. 

T Mason is said to be engaged to Miss Mayo. God bless you. 

Y r friend sincerely 
H Hunt 

I have not rec.d yr watch 
H. Somerville is in Balt me 
Addressed: Maj r Henry Lee 


Near West Moreland O house. 


The "clue” is found in the single line: "Your neighbor, Miss McCarty 
has been here dashing in a fine carriage. ...” Miss McCarty was Anne 



Robinson McCarty, daughter and heiress of Daniel McCarty of Pope’s 
Creek, the two-thousand-acre plantation which bordered Stratford on 
the west and extended to the cliffs on the Potomac. Its name had been 
recently changed to Longwood, in tribute to Napoleon’s last home, for 
to Westmoreland, as to every section of Virginia, Bonaparte was the 
most dramatic figure of the time. 

Since the late seventeenth century, the McCartys, members of a noble 
Irish house, had been friends and neighbors of the Lees, as they were 
of the Popes, Washingtons, Ashtons, Carters, Stuarts and Fitzhughs. 
During the first quarter of the eighteenth century the McCarty and Lee 
families were connected through the marriage of Ann Lee Fitzhugh 
(widow of William Fitzhugh of Eagle’s Nest), only sister of Thomas 
Lee, to Captain Daniel McCarty, burgess and speaker of the House, 
1715-1720. Colonel Daniel McCarty of the next generation was a 
church and business associate of General Washington and one of his 
intimate friends. 

Each head of the McCarty clan was in his turn a successful planter 
and so enterprising in other business activities that, besides cultivating 
tobacco and raising thoroughbred horses, he was instrumental in build- 
ing up the industry that supplied the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore 
and Washington with Westmoreland brick. 

In many ways the lives of Anne and her sister, Elizabeth McCarty, 
heiresses of the House of McCarty, parallel those of Matilda and Flora 
Lee of the generation preceding theirs. From the same courthouse, just 
such time-stained records are to be found. Inventories record the various 
happenings in the lives of the two McCarty girls from 1802 to 1817, 
their many trips and journeys, their rich apparel, their lessons, books, 
occupations, the sums paid for their education, the new acquisitions of 
property increasing their holdings, up to the time of Anne’s wedding 
day. Their mother was Margaret, daughter of William and Margaret 
Williamson Robinson and great-granddaughter of Colonel William 
Robinson, one of the prominent planters of Westmoreland, who came 
to Virginia in 1695 from Yorkshire. Through Margaret’s marriage to 
young Daniel McCarty, who had succeeded to the ownership of Pope’s 
Creek Plantation, the McCarty stud and the McCarty fortune, large 
properties were joined. Anne Robinson was born at Pope’s Creek in 
1798, and Elizabeth about 1801. McCarty died shortly after Elizabeth’s 
birth, leaving Anne Robinson and Elizabeth, his only children, the 
richest heiresses of Westmoreland. 


Some time in 1802 — the date is not recorded — his young widow mar- 
ried Richard Stuart of Cedar Grove, King George County, son of the 
Reverend William Stuart, rector of St. Paul’s Church, King George. 

The family continued to live at the McCarty plantation. During the 
next five years Margaret bore three children, a daughter named Mar- 
garet and two sons. The elder boy died; and in 1808, in giving birth to 
her younger son, Richard Henry Stuart, Margaret McCarty Stuart died. 
In her will she appointed her husband, Richard Stuart, administrator of 
her estate and guardian of her daughters, Anne Robinson and Elizabeth 
McCarty. The two girls went to live with their grandmother, Mildred 
Williamson Robinson, who, through her second marriage, was Mrs. 
John Rose of Mount Rose Plantation, Westmoreland. Mrs. Rose sent 
her granddaughters to Madame Greland’s exclusive and expensive 
school in Philadelphia to be "finished.” Both girls were exceptionally 
well educated and accomplished. Shortly after their return from school 
the two girls were evidently introduced to Washington society. Anne 
was eighteen. A contemporary portrait shows her strikingly handsome, 
even regal, with blue-black hair, dark eyes, and arched brows. It indi- 
cates, too, her romantic cast of thought, her spirited temper, her stormy, 
undisciplined emotions. In whatever circle she moved Anne McCarty 
would be impressive. With her family’s thoroughbreds and fine car- 
riages, she must have been an outstanding figure in Washington. 

Henry Lee, living "next door” to Pope’s Creek and so near Mount 
Rose, had doubtless known Anne McCarty from childhood. This may 
have been a reason for his not being disposed to regard her at first with 
sentiment. However, after he learned of the stir Anne made in Wash- 
ington and the romantic Serena whom he had so desired to make "Mrs. 
Lee” became only a memory, he paid successful court to Anne McCarty. 

Stratford was evidently then in a sad state of disrepair. Much had to 
be done to make it ready for the bride. The McCarty inventories men- 
tion sums of money given Henry Lee at that time. In the marriage con- 
tract various pieces of Anne’s property, negroes, stock, etc., are trans- 
ferred to Lee. The wedding took place March 29, 1817. 

Some of the old McCarty silver, blazoned with the shield and crest of 
McCarty and bearing the date 1620, was now probably added to the 
few pieces of Lee plate in the Great House. The fifth mistress of Strat- 
ford undoubtedly brought, with her own jewels, laces and gowns, chests 
of linen and other household goods of every kind to replenish the scant 



A list of the books she brought to the Great House includes "L. 
Byron’s Works, complete Sett”; the Rambler, Telemachus, Lady of the 
Lake, Roderick, Crab’s Poems, Byron’s Works (second set), Ossian’s 
Poems, Alison’s Sermons, Poet’s Pilgrimage, Mader of the Moor. 


Stratford entered upon a new era of comfort and luxury. Not since 
the days of Philip Ludwell’s daughters, Matilda and Flora, had the sur- 
roundings been so rich, the entertainment so sumptuous and extrava- 
gant. So gay and festive were the days that, several months after the 
wedding, Anne’s sister Elizabeth agreed to make her home at Stratford. 
She took her own maid and made an arrangement to share in the 
family expenses by turning over her fortune into the care of her brother- 
in-law. She named Henry Lee her guardian in place of her stepfather, 
Richard Stuart. It was an amicable arrangement as the court record 

At a Court of Quarterly Sessions held for Westmoreland County the twenty 
fourth of November 1817. 

Elizabeth McCarty, orphan of Daniel McCarty, came into court and made 
choice of Henry Lee, who as her guardian, together with Richard Stuart, his 
surety, entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of $ 60 , 000.00 
conditioned according to law. 3 

John Fox, C.W.C. 

At this time — 1817 — Elizabeth McCarty was not quite seventeen years 
old. In the words of a neighbor she "was low in stature — short and 
plump, and she had the tiniest and prettiest little feet I ever saw. Even 
when I knew her and that was when she had grown old — she had the 
daintiest little feet and ever so many shoes and slippers. How I used to 
admire those slippers when I was a child! Her hair was white when I 
knew her, and cut off short — but I always heard it said when she was 
young it was very, very beautiful — a sort of chestnut brown in natural 
curls and ringlets.” 

In contrast to Anne, Elizabeth was gentle and even tempered. She 
shared her sister’s interest in music, poetry and flowers. Like Major 
Henry, both young women enjoyed society and liked to entertain: 

McKenzie Beverley, who was frequently at Stratford then, says: "The 
family lived in an elegant and expensive style. 4 Miss McCartv’s friends, 
relations and visitors were often there and Miss McCartv had been re- 

3 F i 1 e 166, Clerk’s Office, Corporation Court, Fredericksburg, Va. 

‘Deposition of McKenzie Beverley, Sept. 9, 1822. File 166, Clerk's Office, Corporation 
Court. Fredericksburg, Va. 


quired to contribute a proportion of the expenses of the family for the 
support of herself and servant.” 

Anne McCarty Lee’s first and only child, a daughter, was born some- 
time in the fall of 1818. The exact date is not known, official records of 
births not then being kept. The baby was named Margaret for Anne’s 

The family continued to live in the style described by McKenzie 
Beverley. Major Henry, even more careless about expenditures than 
his father had been, was apparently unmindful of the costs of living 
and the steady dissipation of his wife’s and his ward’s fortunes. 

Certain of Lee’s friends were gravely concerned at this time over his 
predilection for the flesh pots of Egypt and his abandonment of the 
intellectual vocation to which they felt he was destined. 

Another excerpt from Gilmer’s letter of June 10, 1818, shows this 

You have a library, leisure, fortune, genius, & ambition; why then will you 
be content like Lyttleton, to shed a few transient radiations over the minds of 
your friends; & exert yourself just enough, to make them regret that you will 
not do more. Rouse from your lethargy. — 'Shake the dew drops, from the Lions 
mane,’ & do what your friends, your country, the spirits of an [illustrious?] 
ancestry demand of you. Undertake some continued labour — a history of our 
country, or of a particular epoch, — and eclipse as it is no compliment to you, 
to say you can, the meagre & abortive journal of the Chief Justice (I speak this 
not in scorn — you know my ideas of his great ability.) Let it be a nine or a 
twenty years labour, & not like our unripe essays the progeny of a damp & un- 
wholesome day. . . . 

The general impression about young Henry Lee then prevailing is also 
expressed by Colonel James Appleton Storrow, who said Lee was "a 
gentleman of great fortune & talents — more distinguished perhaps than 
any young man in Virginia for excellence of various sorts. His genius, 
liberality, his devotion to his Mother’s family & promise of eminence 
being the theme of everyone. ...” 

Two years passed. Then, it must have been in January or February of 
1820, a tragedy put an end to all the merrymaking. Little two year old 
Margaret died. The child was playing in the Great Hall. Running out 
of the front door to the high stoop, she fell down the steep flight of 
stone steps and was killed in the same way little Philip Ludwell Lee had 
met his death nearly two generations before. 

The child’s mother was inconsolable and was thrown into a despond- 
ency so deep that her very reason was despaired of for a time. In an 



effort to deaden her grief, Anne began to take morphine and soon be- 
came a victim to the drug. Her grandmother, Mrs. Rose, writes sorrow- 
fully of this fact. There was nothing she or any of the stricken family 
could do to deter Anne from her course. 

A gloom settled over the Great House. Other tragedies came. Day 
after day, month after month, Henry Lee and Elizabeth McCarty were 
thrown "into a state of the most unguarded intimacy,” as Lee himself 
afterward said. 

The fact that Elizabeth bore Henry Lee a child, who, according to 
Westmoreland tradition, died at birth, spread the knowledge of their 
relations broadcast through the county and, indeed, all Virginia. 

Henry Lee’s act was termed by many "seduction” and "a crime of the 
blackest dye.” His fiduciary relationship to Elizabeth — that of guardian 
— intensified the gravity of the act. 

Elizabeth was in her nineteenth year. No letter or written statement 
from her about the matter survives. From the collection of Lee’s private 
correspondence and public documents it appears that the men best 
acquainted with the actual circumstances were Henry Lee’s friend, Rich- 
ard T. Brown of Windsor, Westmoreland, and Lee’s half brother, 
Carter. Although not in any wise condoning the offence, Carter "did 
not believe that because a man did one thing wrong that he was as black 
as Satan.” 5 

Elizabeth’s stepfather and former guardian, Richard Stuart, came to 
Stratford and took Elizabeth home to Cedar Grove. He was very kind 
to her, and she had always the affectionate regard of her little sister 
Margaret and her brother Richard Henry Stuart. Deeply repentant, 
Elizabeth put on mourning and cut off her beautiful hair. Henceforth 
she went out in public only to church and then always heavily veiled. 

Through Richard Stuart, Elizabeth prayed the Court to dismiss Henry 
Lee as her guardian and reappoint her stepfather. She was still a minor. 
For the next nine years the case of Stuart vs. Lee was in progress in the 
courts of Westmoreland and Spotsylvania. Lee was removed by the 
Westmoreland Court as Elizabeth McCarty’s guardian and Stuart named 
in his place. Two commissioners from the county were appointed by the 
court at Stuart’s instance to secure an accounting from Lee of his former 
ward’s finances and properties and agree on a basis for a settlement. Ac- 
cording to File 166, Clerk’s Office, Corporation Court, Fredericksburg, 

“Statement to writer by Airs. Francis. 



The Commissioners report that the account between Henry Lee guardian and 
his ward, Elizabeth McCarty has been found correct. . . . 

Lastly: Your commissioners have made up an account between H. Lee and 
Elizabeth McCarty his ward in which she is indebted with the respective sums 
with which she stands charged in private account marked number 3 together 
with board for her self and servant and clothes for servant. We have credited 
the said E. McCarty for one half of the profits of the Popes Creek estate from 
the time the said possession to the present day as will more fully appear by 
reference being had to the general statement of disbursements and sale. 

We have also credited the said E. McCarty for the sum of $11,598.97 that 
being the amount received by the said H. Lee as guardian aforesaid from 
Richard Stuart former guardian of said E. McCarty with interest thereon on the 
24th of November 1817 to the present day. . . . 

In respect to the balance found due by the said H. Lee, he requests us to say 
in our report that he has about eight thousand dollars of assets which he is 
now willing to assign to Richard Stuart the present guardian of Miss McCarty. 

Given under our hand and seal the 20th day of May 1821. 

Signed: Robert L. Hipkins, Joseph Fox. 
John W. Jones, Attorney for Henry Lee. 


The last Lee master of Stratford faced a long grim winter in the Great 
House. The wolves in Stratford forest preyed relentlessly upon the 
live stock. Meeting no adequate resistance, they increased in numbers 
and boldness as the weeks passed. By night there were hideous sounds — 
the howling of the wolves and sometimes perhaps the death shriek of 
an animal. 

Lee appealed for help to Sabine Hall — century-old friend and neigh- 
bor of Stratford. He wrote to Robert Carter: 

I am not able to make a suitable apology, for the liberty I take of mentioning 
to you, that I have heard it suggested you have several good hounds to give 
away, and of asking you to give me 3 or 4 of them. The wolves and foxes prey 
so audaciously and in such numbers around us that without the active assistance 
of dogs we shall have none but the larger quadrupeds left on our farm. 

Will you be so good as to let me hear from you by return of post? And 
believe me to be with sincere esteem for y. r self & the family at Sabine Hall 
your humble & faithful servd 6 



8 th - Feb.y 1821 
[On verso] 

West.d Ct. HS. 

February 8, 1821 

“Copy from photostat of original autographed letter from Henry Lee to Robert Carter of 
Sabine Hall presented to Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc., by A. W. Wellford. 



The difficulty of living in Westmoreland in the face of scandal and 
the necessity for funds at length induced Henry Lee to sell Stratford 
Plantation and move from the county. Having heard of the return from 
South America of his old military friend Major William Clarke Somer- 
ville, who had been abroad some years and had just sold his Maryland 
estate, Mulberry Fields, Lee opened negotiations to sell Stratford to him. 
On June 27, 1822, the sale was effected: 

This Indenture made the 27th day of June 1822 Between Henry Lee and Ann 
his wife of County of Westmoreland, Virginia of the one part and William C. 
Somerville of County of St. Mary’s, Maryland of the other part — 

Witnesseth — that said Henry Lee and Ann R. his wife in consideration of sum 
of $25,000 in hand paid by said Wm. C. Somerville have bargain & sold unto 
said Wm. C. Somerville his heirs &c. a certain Tract of land lying in the County 
of Westmoreland called and known by the name of Stratford, supposed to con- 
tain 3000 Acres more or less— bounded on the North by the River Potomac, on 
West by the lands of the late Daniel McCarty, dec’d of Pope’s Creek and the 
lands of the late Lawrence Pope and of Richard Bayne on South and West by 

the lands of Anderson, of late Pope Tiffey, late Rodham Kenner and of 

Geo. W. P. Custis, late Burdette Eskridge, late Walker Muse of Peggy San- 
ford, late Rodham Moxley and of John Hopkins — together with all houses, 
barns, buildings, stables, yards, gardens, orchards, lands, tenements, meadows, 
pastures, feedings, commons, woods, underwoods, ways, waters, watercourses, 
fishing privileges &c. 

H. Lee, A. R. Lee. 

Recorded July 22, 1822 — Jos. Fox C. W. C. 

Anne McCarty Lee apparently remained at the Great House only until 
this transaction was concluded and her required signature affixed to the 
document. She then left her husband, Westmoreland and all her hold- 
ings, and went to live in Tennessee. In the surviving letters and papers 
there is no evidence that she had any communication with Elizabeth for 
the rest of her life. 

Lee himself went to live in Fredericksburg after the sale of Stratford. 
He began to write assiduously. His first book, The Campaign of 1781 
in the Carolinas, was a spirited, if somewhat jumbled, vindication of 
his father from attacks published in Johnson’s Biography of Nathanael 
Greene. During the next two or three years Lee also wrote political 
pamphlets. He held his citizenship in Westmoreland and on September 

I, 1824, the county records show that he cast his vote for Andrew Jack- 
son. As he himself later wrote, he was active in this unsuccessful cam- 
paign and his activity told against him. Lee’s writing apparently brought 
small financial returns, for he found it necessary to seek some office in 

The Great House Deserted. 



the Government. But, wherever he went, word of his transgression 
preceded him. The doors of one-time friends in Fredericksburg, Rich- 
mond and Washington were closed to him. From all those homes where 
Lee had once been such a favorite he was now ostracized. Everywhere 
was he spoken of as "Black Florse Harry” or "Black Harry.” Of his im- 
mediate family and connections, his sister, Lucy Grymes — Mrs. Bernard 
M. Carter — and Carter Lee alone remained his friends. Both Lucy and 
Carter were perhaps the only ones familiar with all of the circumstances. 
Appalling and inexcusable as they were, they felt there were perhaps 
extenuating circumstances. Nor did they think that Henry was wholly 
"black.” Their letters to him show that they recalled the years of their 
childhood when this unfortunate brother had shown them all kindness 
and affection. Lucy, with a houseful of daughters, frequently invited 
Henry to stay with them in Philadelphia. Carter gave his legal services 
in Henry’s behalf through years of incessant litigation from many 

It was nearly two years before Lee succeeded in getting a position by 
which he could earn even a meagre living. In the spring of 1825 he 
received the appointment of Assistant Postmaster General, "only a tem- 
porary agency,” he wrote General Jackson, "& a salary that would 
hardly bribe a slave.” Slight as it was, the appointment was the signal 
for a heavy barrage of incredible slanders. A number of Lee’s friends 
in Westmoreland, men who had known him and loved him from his 
boyhood, came to his defense as this letter of May 24, 1825, from Rich- 
ard T. Brown of Westmoreland shows: 

The day after my last letter to you, I spent an hour with your former neigh- 
bour, M. r s Eskridge — I found her to merit the good opinion that you have al- 
ways entertained of her and I am amply compensated for my ride in becoming 
acquainted with so good a woman. She has all the charitable principles of a real 
Christian, & for you & M rs Lee the kindness of a sincere and devoted friend. 
As to the money you owe her I think she feels much less uneasiness than you 
do. The case is rather different with M r Butler — the old Gentleman has been 
suid and fears his property may be sold by the sheriff — However I believe his 
fears are quieted & his confidences in you unabated. 

M r Taliaferro mentioned to me some time since that the persecution of your 
enemys had followed you most [illegible] into the station that you now fill, 
and that attempts had been made to injure you with the Post Mast Gen . 1 In 
conformity to the understanding that M. r T. & myself come to on the subject, I 
send to him, an address to the P.M. Gen 1 signed by sundry of your county men 
approving of his appointment of you to the office you hold which he will for- 
ward to the P.M. Gen 1 with such remarks as he may choose to add, when you no 


doubt will see it. . . . Present my respectful regard to M rs Lee — tell her that 
all her poor neighbours about Stratford make unceasing inquireys after her, and 
that they still have a grateful recollection of her kindnesses to them and that 
they desire most sincerely her health & happiness. 

A few months later as the persecution continued, Brown again wrote 

The impudence & falsehood of your enemies is equaled only by the business of 
the assassin-like mode of their attack on you. They are few in numbers & 
feeble in strength and you aught not to fear them. Your appointment gives 
more general satisfaction than you are aware of. I have not been able to dis- 
cover the author of the letter signed a Citizen of Maryland, by the hand writing 
but I find one of the scraps is from the back of the letter, which is marked one 
cent postage & proves it to have been mailed at Washington. If I was to form 
any opinion on the subject I should suspect it to be the production of some 
jealous aspirant for office in the City who wishes to fill your place. 

Inclosed I send you a Piece that I cut out of the Richmond enquirer of the 5 
Inst It is on the same subject. I suppose you hardly thought that you were to 
be a subject for discussion among those grave ? government reformers in the 
late Staunton Convention. 

With his situation in the Postmaster General’s office so precarious, 
Lee obtained additional employment as a political writer for John C. 
Calhoun. He also prepared a second edition of his father’s Memoirs. 
It had been one of Light-Horse Harry Lee’s desires to have such an edi- 
tion with the manuscript corrections he had made and the notes from 
Colonel Howard. In deference to his father’s wish, Henry Lee took 
up this work, adding to the book additions and explanations of his own. 
Through correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, he obtained a more 
exact account of Jefferson’s course as Governor of Virginia at the time 
of Arnold’s invasion. Colonel James R. Fenwick of the United States 
Army financed the printing. 

Lee’s industry was indefatigable. He also began conscientiously to 
pay sums from his earnings on account of his obligations to Elizabeth 
McCarty, as his letters to Carter show. His solicitude for his wife never 
ceased. His deep repentence and his effort to make amends for his 
wrong doing are shown by every available record. But the fact that he 
still held an official position appeared to arouse increasingly violent 
animosity from innumerable people. His utterances as a political writer 
were misconstrued by President Adams himself, as well as by his friends, 
and even by Jackson men. That many false representations against Lee 
were made is shown in his letter of September 11, 1825, to Andrew 
Jackson to be quoted in these pages. 




How persistent Lee’s enemies continued to be in their efforts to turn 
him out of the small office he held and at the same time how disturbed, 
how loyal and friendly were his former tenants at Stratford and the 
friends and neighbors who knew him best, are evident from Richard 
Brown’s next letter: 

I inclose you two Letters that I have lately received from M. r Taliaferro & 
Doct. r Pitts on the subject of the late wicked attempts of your enemies to injoure 
your standing with the postmaster Gen.l I think with M. r Taliaferro that you 
should take no further notice of such base & unprincipled attempts on your 
repose, and I am persuaided that the postmaster Gen.l will readily perceive the 
mallignant spirit of the persecution that pursues you and will [illegible] it ac- 
cordingly. . . . Are you never to be forgiven for one sin ? and is that single act 
of your life to give a license for all kinds of abuse and calumny to be levelled 
at you by all that are base enough to attempt your distruction by every species 
of falshood & defamation, and can such slanderers receive the countenance of 
the virtuous & enlightened part of community? When I reflect on your talents 
and standing in this county, as a man, a citizen, a neighbour, a landlord & master 
before your tragical affair with Miss M. above alluded to, and the degree of re- 
pute in those respects which that affair left you in, I can only deplore the catas- 
trophe that has blasted prospects so bright as those you held & forced you from 
the society of early friends, and the home of your ancestors. You will pardon 
me for reviveing a subject that I well know is a painful one to you but as it 
is the only act of your life that could possibly give to your enemies colour or 
pretext for their slanderous abuse of your character I could not help adverting 
to it. It is however intended in the freedom & feeling of friendship that wishes 
to soothe & not wound your feelings — the best refutation to the slanderous 
charges of your enemies against you, will be found in the affections of your 
former tenants & neighbours who hold in grateful remembrance your benevo- 
lence & charity to them. My sons desire their love to you. I am Sir with great 

Your friend & servt 

Richd T. Brown 

Nevertheless the hue and cry against Henry Lee continued. When, 
because of his personal kindness to Lee, the Postmaster General, Judge 
McLean, was falsely attacked as an enemy of the Adams administration 
and when Jackson’s political adherents sought by unfounded slanders to 
impeach Lee’s unswerving loyalty to him, Lee became genuinely alarmed. 
Although he did not at that time have a personal friendship with Gen- 
eral Jackson, there was no man whom he admired and revered more, no 
man whose cause he more desired to serve. On the brink of ruin, Lee 
wrote Jackson. Lee’s copy of this unpublished letter, but recently dis- 



covered, explains many heretofore unknown details of the political 
situation as well as the tragedy of his own life: 

Gadsby’s Hotel: 11 . th Sep. tr 


dear General 

Nothing is more awkward to a man of the least modesty or feeling than to 
speak about himself, &, though the operation is less distressing when his re- 
marks are reduced to writing, yet even then it is decidedly unpleasant. I can 
speak feelingly on this subject for what I describe, I actually experience, Ne- 
cessity (for the fear of losing your confidence, is the severest moral necessity 
that I can be subjected to) compels me to address you on my own subject — In 
the Washington City gazette of the 9- th Inst appeared an extract from the 
Nashville Republican — expressing on the part of that correspondent extreme 
surprise at my being appointed (as he says) ass.t Post M. Gen. 1 , intimating 
strongly that I had rec d that appointment, as the price of treachery to you, . . . 
Allusions distorted & unfriendly enough to a private and censurable errour of 
my domestic life, are then made, the worst representation of which is asserted 
to be credible in consequence of the aforesaid Acts of public treachery to you & 
to your cause. This is the substance of the piece . . . Under the penalties which 
have been hitherto inflicted either by justice, malice, envy, or resentment, upon 
me, for the sin of my private life, I have endeavoured to maintain a carriage 
composed of fortitude & penitence; And I hope I shall be able to persevere in it 
to the end. 

The active, though humble & inefficient part, I took in the late contest 
for the presidency, exposed me to unusual persecution, & to more searching 
slanders, than the intrinsic quality of my offence, would have provoked. But 
I only took the part of a freeman, & the painful consequences to myself, I 
was not unwilling to bear, in consideration of the advantage which I hoped to 
secure to the country. I had never before mingled in political Controversies, so 
that I was not influenced by polemical habits; I never asked or received notice or 
encouragement from you, so that no hope of personal reward actuated me. The 
strength & corruption of a hideous faction, excited my apprehensions, and 
qualities which I percieved in your character inspired me with respect & admi- 
ration I therefore, by a very plain course of moral influence, became an active 
enemy of the causus, & an active friend of your election . . . the deference I 
owe to the country he [Adams] represents, & the institutions he ministers, in- 
duces me to disclaim any thing like unprovoked opposition to his Gov.t I have 
never conceived that respect for him was inconsistent with preference for you, or 
that it would be either honourable or politic to oppose his administration, mere- 
ly because I had promoted your election. . . . This offer [of assistant Post- 
master General] was made me voluntarily & before I ceased to support your 
pretensions, & with a perfect & intimate knowledge of the zeal by which I was 
actuated. To that neither in its office, or acceptance, was the cause of this or of 
that candidate made a condition, or even thought of. Nor do I believe M. r 
Adams was Consulted even when the offer was made for the last time. Judge 



McLean preferred M.r Adams, but had not been hostile to Genl. Jackson, & I 
prefered Genl. Jackson — with as little hostility as circumstances permitted to 
be compatible with that attitude, to M r - Adams. I remember when I accepted 
the offer, I expressed to my friends, as one reason for preferring it to the place 
which I could not get in the State Dept that it was but remotely connected with 
the administration & would not even appear to commit my reputation for con- 
stancy as a Iackson man. It had the advantage too I observed, of connecting me 
with a man of great publick merit & of the most endearing and upright private 
character, & who would desire to weaken my political faith neither by the 
blandishments nor the unkindness of office. These calculations have been real- 
ized — and I have experienced nothing but kind and manly support & confidence 
from this excellent individual, who has maintained me, against the industrious 
slanders of the town & perha[p]s the higher adherents of Mr. Adams, who 
have not failed to represent me as a spy in the camp, & to say that the favour 
shown me by the P. Master Genl was a proof of his own aversion to M r - 
Adams . . .You may suppose then that I was both surprised & wounded, 
while the jealousy of the Court oppressed me, to find myself an object of more 
decided aversion to your friends and even nieghbours. I do not say or even inti- 
mate, that I had any claims upon their gratitude or upon their kindness. The 
little that I did was done on my own account to indulge my own predilection & 
fervour — & constituted no claim, & never was so advanced, upon any man. But 
the common sympathies of fellowship I did suppose would shield me from their 
injustice & cruelty. For their remarks upon my publick conduct are unjust, 
while those upon my private misfortune are cruel. That pang consists almost 
entirely of the fear, that some unfavorable impression may be made on your 
mind respecting me, & that you may suppose my zeal (if you ever observed it) 
in your favour, was meretricious & insincere. And to go farther — the object 
of this letter, is to prevent that impression, & to obtain from you a declaration 
that it does not exist. I do not believee that any such impression has been made 
on you, but I wish most ardently to be certain that it has not — & I beg to be 
favoured with the expression of your sentiments on the question. 

As for M r - Adams, I have taken two occasions to remind him since I acted in 
the P. office Dept . . . that you were my first choice, . . . On the other hand, 
I have never spoken ill of M r Adams, while I have not forborne to disapprove 
some of the military measures of his Cabinet. I do not admire any member of 
it . . . Surrounded as he is by inefficient mem[bers] men who either have not 
[the] [cjonfidence of the people, or who do not deserve his, it is not rash to 
conjecture that four years of confusion & weakness will terminate his career. He 
has in my opinion strong and decided Claims to personal & to publick confi- 
dence, and I feel the force of these claims so sensibly that it is with regret I see 
him, with all his historical & experimental knowledge of government, avoiding 
no opportunity of exciting opposition, alienating his friends without conciliating 
his enemies, and looking for faithful support to a man & a party who he ought 
to know, will always prefer their own interest to his; . . . 

If my wishes could regulate the cause of things, M.r Adams would have a 
prosperous administration of four years, and you would succeed him, declaiming 



in your inaugural speech, that your predecessor deserved well of his Coun- 
try .. . He is constitutionally president, & he is entitled to all the advantages 
& opportunities of his office, & if you defeat him in the next Contest, I trust 
your victory will be as fair as I consider your claims transcendent, & your dis- 
position generous . . . 

To this letter Andrew Jackson made a characteristic reply: he invited 
Henry Lee to come to the Hermitage as his friend and guest. The letter 
is not preserved in Henry Lee’s papers, but Parton’s Life of Andrew 
Jackson says: 

. . . Another friend of General Jackson, a frequent visitor at the Hermitage 
in these years, demands a passing notice — Henry Lee, the son of General 
Henry Lee of the Revolution. Henry Lee . . . went, ruined but repentant, to 
General Jackson, under whom he had served in the war of 1812 . For his 
father’s sake, and believing also in the sincerity of his contrition, and giving 
due weight to certain extenuating circumstances, General Jackson received 
him to his house for a while and remained his fast friend and benefactor to 
the close of his life. He employed his [Lee’s] masterly pen in the preparation 
of his public papers, and afterward gave him office, not heeding senatorial op- 
position. Major Lee wrote some striking works, began a life of General Jack- 
son, and has a place in catalogues and literary cyclopedias. It is probable that 
the memorial of General Jackson to the Senate in defense of his conduct in the 
Seminole War was the composition of Henry Lee. Many of the General’s cam- 
paign letters and other political papers were doubtless copied [composed] by 
him [Henry Lee] before they met the public eye. 

Henry Lee’s atonement and Jackson’s help in reshaping his life make 
a moving story. The episode affected Lee’s entire career, as it did that 
of his wife and her sister. It likewise materially affected the history of 
the Great House, bringing about the departure of the Lees and, after 
the brief interlude of Somerville ownership, determining the destiny of 
Stratford for more than a hundred years, from 1821 to 1929- 



A LASTING friendship developed between Jackson and Lee. From 
that time, 1825, until General Jackson’s inauguration as seventh 
President of the United States, Lee was practically a member of 
his household. 

In the campaign to defeat Adams, upon which Jackson was now con- 
centrating, he found Lee’s talents and industry of specific use. The hero 
of New Orleans knew men but he did not know books. For the form 
and style of official letters, speeches, political addresses of all sorts and 
kinds, he depended greatly upon William B. Lewis, upon General 
Duff Green (editor of The United States T ele graph, then the organ of 
the Democratic party), and Henry Lee. Of the three, Lee was probably 
most constantly beside Jackson as, to quote Parton, his "able scribe." 
Lee made a vigorous and definite contribution to Jackson’s presidential 
campaign and the beginning of his first administration. 

This inevitably had its disadvantages and today complicates an analy- 
sis of Jackson’s written utterances. His rugged, characteristic expressions 
are frequently clothed in the stilted verbiage of Lee’s eighteenth century 
style and thus become obscured. Few written documents of that day 
were forthright as men talked, especially as Jackson talked — but were 
dressed in flowery phrases or figures far removed from actual speech. 
Of all that Jackson "wrote," no one will ever know how much was 
Jackson and how much was Lee. 

In the early spring of 1827 Lee began a biography of Andrew Jackson. 
An announcement, characteristic of the period, of the plan for this pub- 
lication appears in the United States Telegraph , March 15, 1827, in 
which the "literary pen” of Henry Lee spreads a grand flourish: 

Proposals for publishing by subscription a Biography of Andrew Jackson, 
Late Maj. Gen’l of the Army of the United States by Henry Lee, Author of 
Campaign of 1781. 

Biography, though inferior in dignity to History, is not less useless, its ex- 
ample being more impressive and its instructions more distinct. If the range 
of history is broad and extended, and the events it records massive and con- 
spicuous, the views of biography are penetrating and picturesque, and its details 
richly coloured with moral learning and glowing sympathies, which attend 
our researches into the human heart. For causes that are obvious the lives of il- 
lustrious men are the proper subject of this species of composition. 

To rescue their names from oblivion and to preserve their memories for the 
contemplation of future ages, the chisel, the pencil, and the pen conspire, the 
marble leapes into life, the canvass becomes immortal and the light page more 

[ 385 ] 


durable than brass. This immortality which man gives to man is just as a reward 
and beneficial as an incentive. Although the maxim "respice finem” is not less 
wise than it is cautious, there are some allowable exceptions to its observance. 
Eminent service and signal merit have been known to provoke calumny in as 
great a degree as the excited praise. The brightest fame is sometimes obscured 
by envy or ill fortune. In such cases it is the duty of biography to disregard 
this important canon. Andrew Jackson is one of those men whose great quali- 
ties are not fairly estimated by the age in which he lives. . . . It is proposed 
therefore to lay before the public, with as little delay as possible a clear account 
of his life, and by the light of established facts and unimpeachable testimony, 
to examine whatever is disputed to elucidate whatever may seem obscene and 
explain whatever is misunderstood in his conduct. 


It is intended to print this work in handsome style and on good paper. It 
will contain about 300 duodecimo pages and will be embellished with a correct 
and elegantly executed likeness of Gen’l Jackson. Should the subscription justify 
the expense it is intended to give several additional plates. Price $1.50 payable 
on delivery. 1 

The publishing expenses of the biography as a campaign document 
were to be met by Duff Green. Profit for the author was not a part of 
the plan. The facts are made clear in Green’s letters to Lee. 2 Although 
some funds were advanced him in Nashville, it appears that Lee had to 
give the major portion of his time to the pamphleteering and corre- 
spondence by which he earned his daily bread. 

On May 30, 1827, Duff Green, glad that Lee was doing the work in 
Nashville, wrote to him: "I rejoice that you have gone to Nashville at 
this moment. The coalition are alarmed at the activity of the people and 
are bringing forth every calumny which their prost(it) uted partisan 
can invent to operate upon Gen 1 Jackson’s popularity — in this state of 
things the fact that you are writing the biography at Nashville will make 
the work be more anxiously sought for.” The book, however, did not 
progress beyond the manuscript stage — and even the manuscript, now 
in the Library of Congress, is incomplete. 

About this time a reconciliation took place between Lee and his wife. 
When Anne left Stratford her first concern had been to rid herself of 
the drug habit. She went to the "Springs” known as "The Fountain of 
Health” near Nashville. It was several years before a complete cure 
was affected. During this period her husband wrote her constantly 
and tried by every means and penance in his power to regain her con- 

'Virginia, Caroline County. Woolfork Papers. “Mulberry Place.” 
-Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc. 



fidence and respect and to earn her forgiveness. "The condition of my 
wife I feel insufferably for,” Lee wrote to Carter. He says further in a 
letter which he wrote on one of his brief visits East, October 14, 1828, 
from the home of his sister Lucy in Philadelphia: "My wife, who has at 
last overcome that fatal propensity, which brought on our house such 
an Illiad of woe, is heart sick under frequent disappointment and long 
desertion, and as M. r Love writes me is sinking again into dangerous 
despondency. There are circumstances— this last particularly — that plant 
agonies on my nightly pillow & strew with sorrow my daily path.” 

Happily Anne’s love for her husband was as deep as his own love and 
penitence. It is possible that Andrew Jackson interested himself in 
helping to bring about the reunion. 

Lee stayed at the Fountain of Health for awhile with Anne, then 
moved with her to a house nearer the Hermitage, where he could con- 
tinue in close touch with General Jackson. He wrote to Carter: 

It is now about a month since the necessity of getting M rs Lee moved to a 
physician, caused me to remove from the fountain of Health to within 2 & l/> 
miles of Nashville — where I am now residing. M r s Lee has been during that 
time & for some time before sicker than I ever knew her [to be], and is yet con- 
fined to her bed. . . . Being at that time busy at the request of the executive 
Jackson [Committee?] of Kentucky in preparing a summary ... of the life 
of Jackson from the [war?] to the present time, in order to complete a sketch 
of his entire life which they are producing to answer or counteract a scurrilous 
lie just published by the Adams party in that state, I put that away also without 
reading it, that my mind might act, free from vexatious subjects. My work was 
finished and despatched yesterday. . . . 

Anne McCarty and Henry Lee evidently reached a complete under- 
standing. They began to rebuild their lives and seemed to recapture the 
happiness they had so nearly lost. This is clear from the series of sur- 
viving letters each wrote Carter. In testimony of Anne’s devoted service 
to her husband are many pages of his manuscript in both French and 
English patiently copied in her beautifully formed handwriting. 

General Jackson and his wife, Rachel, were also on pleasant terms 
with Anne. Duff Green wrote Lee in April, 1828, "My best respects to 
Mrs. Lee and also to Mrs. Jackson and the General.” Once when the 
General was away from the Hermitage for as long as two days, Mrs. 
Jackson wrote Lee: " . . .1 send you a lock of the General’s hair. Please 
make my respects to Mrs. Lee and accept for yourself my best wishes.” 

When the sorrowful days of Rachel Jackson’s last illness and death 
came, Henry Lee was close to Jackson. Parton says: "There was no time 
for mourning. Haggard with grief and watching, 'twenty years older 


in a night,’ as one of his friends remarked, the President-elect was com- 
pelled to enter without delay upon the labor of preparing for his jour- 
ney to Washington. His inaugural address, the joint production of him- 
self, Major Lewis and Henry Lee, was written at the house of Major 
Lewis near Nashville. But one slight alteration was made in the docu- 
ment after the General reached the seat of government. General Jack- 
son furnished the leading idea — Major Lewis made some suggestions; 
Henry Lee gave it form and style.” Lee went with Jackson to Washing- 


At the time of Lee’s return to Washington, in the early spring of 1829, 
his father’s widow, "Mrs. General Lee” was living in Georgetown. She 
had moved from Alexandria four years previously when Robert entered 
West Point and Carter began his law practice in Washington. Ann 
Carter Lee had remained but a short time in the small and cramped 
quarters of the house on Washington Street in Alexandria where she 
had moved after the death of her husband. When one of the Fitzhugh 
mansions near by, 607 Oronoco Street, became available, Ann settled 
there. It was a stately Georgian house with a beautiful entrance door and 
a large side garden next to another Fitzhugh residence used as the Hallo- 
well School in which Robert was prepared for the United States Military 
Academy at West Point. 

During the fourteen years the family lived in Alexandria they spent 
a great part of each year at the Fitzhugh estate, Ravensworth Plantation. 
Ravensworth was built in the late eighteenth century by William Fitz- 
hugh of Chatham and inherited by his only son, William Henry, whose 
wife was a Maryland girl, Anna Maria Goldsborough of Myrtle Grove, 
Talbot County. William Fitzhugh’s other child was an only daughter, 
Mary Lee, who, through her marriage to George Washington Parke 
Custis, was the mistress of Arlington House. Mrs. Custis, with her 
daughter Mary, was a neighbor and frequent visitor. Of Mrs. Fitz- 
hugh’s own immediate family, the Goldsboroughs and Kerrs 3 of the 
Eastern Shore of Maryland also were frequent guests at Ravensworth. 
As the favorite meeting place of all these families, as well as other 
kinsfolk and friends, Ravensworth represented for Ann Lee and her 
children the happiest side of their sojourn in Alexandria. 

3 Mrs. Fitzhugh’s sister. Elizabeth Goldsborough was the second wife of John Leeds Kerr 
of Maryland, who represented his state for over thirty years in the House of Representatives 
and the United States Senate. Mrs. Fitzhugh refers to the visits of the Kerrs to Ravensworth in 
her letters to Carter Lee. 

William Henry Fitzhngh of Ravensworth. Portrait by Sully. 


After Robert’s departure for West Point and the family’s move to 
Georgetown, the pleasant interchange of visits between Ravensworth 
and Arlington House continued. The Mason family too remained in 
this family group. They were then living on "the Island,” as they called 
their home — Analostan Island — in the Potomac River, just across from 
Georgetown. 4 This property, owned by George Mason of Gunston 
Hall, had been inherited by his son John, who built the house and cause- 
way to it. 

Young Sidney Smith Lee usually spent his shore leave with his 
mother, Carter and Mildred in the Georgetown house and shared in 
the visits on Analostan Island. Here took place his marriage to Nannie 
Mason, one of the daughters of John Mason. A few years later Robert 
was to marry another member of this family circle — Mary Custis. 5 

The numerous letters to Carter Lee, 1825 to 1861, from "Aunt Maria,” 
as Mrs. Fitzhugh, though no relation, was affectionately termed by the 
Lees, contain interesting details of the Lee family life and events. In a 
letter dated February 25, 1829, Mrs. Fitzhugh referred to the incoming 
President, Andrew Jackson, and his cabinet, and at the same time spoke 
of Ann Lee’s failing strength. It could not have been long after this 
date that she invited her to Ravensworth, where she could receive every 
comfort and care. 

Thus it happened that when Major Henry Lee came back to Washing- 
ton his stepmother was at Ravensworth. She was dying then and would 
have only Robert beside her. Having just graduated from West Point, 
Robert hurried to Virginia to be with his mother: "In her last illness he 
mixed every dose of medicine she took, and was with her night and day. 
If he left the room, she kept her eyes on the door till he returned. He 
never left her but for a short time.”‘ ; 

Late in July Ann Carter Lee died peacefully at Ravensworth and was 
buried in the Fitzhugh family graveyard in the garden. 7 

The National Intelligencer of Wednesday, July 29, 1829, printed this 

J This island owned by the District of Columbia is today part of the Park and Planning Com- 
mission and has been converted into a bird sanctuary in memory of Theodore Roosevelt. 

5 Marv Ann Randolph Custis was related to the Lees on both sides. Even though Robert E. 
Lee had been born at Stratford and his people Lees for six generations, his wife was more 
closely related to the original Stratford Lees than he was. On her mother’s side, Mary Custis 
was a direct descendant of Thomas Lee’s sister, the first Ann Lee, wife of William Fitzhugh 
of Eagle’s Nest, King George County. On her father’s side, Mary was descended through Jane 
Ludwell, wife of Daniel Parke, from the first Philip Ludwell, great-grandfather of the Strat- 
ford Lees. 

0 Recollections and Letters of General Lee, p. 326. 

7 The body of Ann Carter Lee was removed later to the Lee Chapel at Lexington. 

Airs. William Henry Fitzhugh of Ravensworth. 


Mrs. Ann C. Lee, of Georgetown, the widow of Gen. Henry Lee, of the 
Revolution, died on the morning of the 26th at Ravensworth, the residence of 
W. H. Fitzhugh, surrounded by her family and friends. Her death is such as 
might have been expected from her life — exhibiting the resignation and com- 
posure of a practical Christian, conscious of having faithfully discharged her 
duties both to God and her fellow-creatures. Admired by all who knew her inti- 
mately, she has left a chasm in society which will not be easily filled. Her im- 
mediate friends most deeply deplore the loss they have sustained. But they 
bow in humble submission to a decree which, though afflictive to them, has 
transferred the object of their affections from the painful concerns of this life 
to the everlasting joys of the world to come. 


That there was still a bitter undercurrent of antagonism to Henry 
Lee must have become apparent to President Jackson very soon after 
his inauguration. In order to aid his friend and political assistant the 
President considered placing him in the consular service abroad. He 
therefore selected for him a post too minor and remote to stir any 
further opposition, an ad interim appointment as consul-general to the 
Barbary Powers. Lee would probably have obtained a better place, 
Parton says, "but for the fear that the Senate would reject the nomi- 

A delight in vicious scandal seems to have been characteristic of this 
era. The President believed that cruel and unfounded slander was the 
cause of his wife’s untimely death. Toward Henry Lee was directed a 
particular venom. Slurring references to the Virginian, which still 
appear in biographies of Jackson, indicate the resentment among those 
close to him over Lee’s intimacy with the chief. Lee’s position has been 
sometimes estimated as that of an underling, merely secretarial, whereas 
he served Jackson in an original and creative capacity. 

One of Lee’s friends, Gilbert C. Russell, wrote him from Alexandria, 
May 14, 1829, expressing the hope he would decline the appointment to 

What can you promise yourself? Wealth, fame or ease! An Overseer of little 
commercial agents — But for the name of the thing I would rather be an over- 
seer of your negroes. Moreover I expected the pleasure of your company next 
winter and the idea of disappointment vexes me. I prey that you will inform me 
the motives which governed you in takeing the appointment; ... Is M rs - Lee 
willing to it? Write to me at Mobile. Whatever may be your lot or wheresoever 
you go, I pray that both of you & M rs - Lee may enjoy a share of the divine 

Slight as the office was, however, any opportunity to leave the United 


States with a creditable official title must have been welcomed by Henry 
Lee and his wife. He appointed Carter his attorney with full power to 
manage his property and interests during his absence, collect money due 
him, and to pay his debts. From his prospective salary, which he care- 
fully budgeted, he planned to send Carter five hundred dollars annually. 
He drew up his will: 

I Henry Lee of Westmoreland County, Virginia I give and bequeath all my 
estate and effects rights claims, and interest of whatsoever kind or nature which 
I shall have or now have right to dispose of to my beloved wife Ann R. Lee 
during her natural life. Should she die without issue by me after her death to 
my dear brother Charles Carter Lee. I appoint my wife and brother joint execu- 

His wife duplicated this will, leaving her husband her entire estate 
and appointing him sole executor. In the event of Henry’s death, Carter 
Lee was to inherit Anne’s estate. 

Some assurance of their future social security were the letters of in- 
troduction given Lee to various dignitaries abroad. James Leander 
Cathcart wrote to H. C. Nissan, Esqr., His Danish Majesty’s Consul 
General at Algiers: 

Permit me to introduce to your acquaintance & friendly regard, the bearer 
Major Henry Lee, lately appointed Consul gen 1 of the United States, resident at 
Algiers, who from his rank, talents, & urbanity, will be an acquisition to the 
society of the honorable exiles residing in the "Island of the West.” . . . Your 
long residence in Barbary will enable you to give him such information of the 
manners & customs of those demi-Barbarians, as cannot fail to be both useful, 
& edifying to any stranger on his first arrival in a country where the manner 
of conducting public business is so very different from what is pursued in all 
civilized nations. . . . 

P. S. Townsend of New York wrote to the Egyptologist, Jean Fran- 
cois Champollion: "Should these lines ever meet you they will be com- 
municated through my friend and fellow countryman Major Lee, Con- 
sul General of the United States to the Barbary Powers. He is a son of 
one of our most renowned warriors of the Revolution & is himself an 
author, a gentleman of great literary taste & acquirements & besides a 
warm admirer of your’s. He has solicited of me the honor of your ac- 
quaintance & in presenting him to you I pray you to receive him as one 
who comes at the foot of the Pyramids (the monuments of your glory 
as well as of the Ptolemys) to offer you the homage of his respect & to 
bear to you from me the assurance of mv unalterable esteem & friend- 



As Henry and his wife were making preparations to leave the United 
States, his sister Lucy wrote him: 

I hope you will be pleased with your residence at Algiers, & that you may 
fulfil the duties of your Office with ability. I would also recommend to you, to 
treat Ann with the utmost tenderness. It would be well to humor her Peculi- 
arities if she has any, & then they would wear off. If I have said any thing 
offensive, you must forgive me for it, as be assured the best motives dictate, 
what I have said — It is painful for me to bid you farewell, as human life is un- 
certain, & we may never meet again, should it be the case, I hope the balance 
of your life may be spent in a way to promote your own happiness & that you 
may be Prosperous & successful in all your undertakings. . . . 

Remember me affectionately to Ann, for whom I shall always entertain the 
kindest feelings — And now my dear Brother, I must bid you farewell, hoping 
it will please God to bless & Preserve you; You are going a great distance, & 
we may never meet again. If so tho we cant help it, the reflexion that we are 
both unfortunate presses on me & makes me feel more at bidding you farewell 
than I thought I should — the subject is too painful to dwell on, therefore I 
will say no more, but still remain — 

Your affectU Sister — 

L. Carter. 

Major Henry Lee, 

52 Broadway, New York. 

Just before they sailed came this last word of the family in a letter 
from Carter, ''Geo:-town,” August 6, 1829 — the news of the breaking 
up of their home: 

Mildred & Robert left me today on a visit to Ann [Marshall] — the furniture 
is to be sold next Tuesday, & I am left by myself to reflect on how melancholy 
it is that there will be no longer a roof under which we can be gathered at our 
home. This happening too at the very time of your departure seems to com- 
plete the overthrow of that domestic happiness which after all the heart ap- 
pears most to rely on. Friends after friends walked out of the house yesterday 
in tears, & I could hardly retain mine. However, it is not only "like leaves on 
trees” that "the race of man is found.” Like the trees themselves, when trans- 
planted from their groves or when their companions are cut away, we put out 
our lateral branches & form around us a comfortable shade. . . . 


Yours ever 

C. C. Lee 

As consul general of the United States of America to the Barbary 
Powers, Henry Lee now entered into a new period of his stormy career. 
The fact that he had no illusions about his grandiloquent title, or about 
Algiers and Morocco, doubtless helped in his and his wife’s adjustment 
to the bizarre and even menacing world awaiting them. Added to every 



discomfort in living and office quarters was the continual fear for per- 
sonal safety experienced by all foreigners who were Christians or Jews. 
Lee found that he could not even walk on the streets unarmed, and the 
house he secured had to be turned into a veritable arsenal. Murders of 
Frenchmen and Jews by the natives were everyday occurrences. One 
crisis gave rise to another. Time and again Anne was in a state of 
utmost terror. 

Lee rather relished being thus placed on his mettle and recalled his 
father’s tactics during the Revolution when with a group of ten men in 
the Spread Eagle Tavern Light-Horse Harry Lee had held the British 
General Tarleton and two hundred men at bay. This is evident from his 
letter of April 24, 1830, to Carter: 

. . . Our situation here is becoming quite critical. The Turks and Arabs 
are preparing to oppose the French armament which is expected to descend on 
this continent in about 3 weeks. My colleagues not being at liberty, or not 
having opportunity to leave here (being consuls for Algiers merely) I did not 
feel capable of deserting them — nor as a military man of leaving my port at 
the approach of war. M f s Lee, faithful and true as ever, refused to separate 
from me, although Com r e Biddle sent in two ships to take us to Europe, prefer- 
ring danger with me to safety without me; and we are now with the other 
Christian families taking such measures as seem calculated to keep us safe from 
the impending conflict. 

I persuade myself we shall escape — but where so many & such multitudinous 
savage tribes are to be collected no positive calculations can be made as to their 
doings or deportment. If the French, as is probable, are successful, despair may 
make the savages destructive, and if they are victorious insolence may render 
them equally dangerous. But I shall abide the issue — we have a strong house 
I have 6 muskets, 6 pistols & my Tennessee Rifle, & I think I can shew them 
the Spread Eagle scuffle over again. 

Write to me my dear brother. The moment this war between the cross and 
the crescent is finished I will write to you. 

Y. r af te brother 

H. Lee 

Ann is pretty well & engaged in writing to her grandmama & Aunt Rose. She 
sends her love to you and will write next time. 

Lee appears to have represented his country admirably. He and his 
wife became great favorites in the little colony of foreigners and, as 
surviving letters show, they made steadfast friends. The Virginian 
introduced the game of whist at their club. The Algerian pets they ac- 
quired, among them an antelope, a wild boar and a donkey, made the 
American consul general especially popular with Teddy and Emmv 
Mathias, children at the British consulate. 


Apparently it did not once occur to Henry Lee that the United States 
Senate would not confirm his nomination. The post was so remote, un- 
civilized, and undesirable. He had given efficient and uncomplaining 
service for nearly a year. For ten years he had followed a self-respecting, 
hard-working and honorable course. He had made his peace with his 
wife and was trying by every means within his power to meet his finan- 
cial obligations as every surviving record shows. In facing the conse- 
quences of his act fairly and squarely, he had endured a persecution that 
would have broken a man of less courage. But reject him the Senate 
did. The bad news reached him not long after the "Spread Eagle scuf- 
fle” about which he wrote Carter. 

Although the proceedings in the executive session of the United States 
Senate were secret, "many of the Senate Executive acts were such as 
could not be concealed,” says Parton. "A large number of the nomi- 
nations were opposed, and several, upon which the President had set 
his heart were rejected, no less than twenty-one Senators voted against 
the confirmation of Henry Lee, among whom were six of Gen. Jack- 
son’s most intimate friends and most decided partisans.” The names of 
those twenty-one men Lee must have read with sickening dismay, for 
among them were those he had counted his best and most loyal friends 
in Virginia and Tennessee. 

But he was not wholly without defenders. The men of Westmoreland 
called a meeting and on April 27, 1830, signed an address to President 
Jackson prepared by Richard T. Brown: 

To his Excellency Andrew Jackson, President of the United States 

We have viewed with feelings of concern the rejection, by the Senate, of the 
nomination of our countryman Major Lee as consul general to Algiers. What 
circumstances unknown to the public have influenced the decision of that hon- 
orable body we are unable to say, but we cannot help believing that their virtu- 
ous indignation has been grossly abused by the most exaggerated statements 
and malicious invectives. 

Educated in as strict a moral code as his most vindictive persecutors, we 
equally condemn one circumstance of his life, but we do not consider it a gener- 
ous policy or a Christian virtue to pursue forever with unrelenting ferocity the 
unfortunate victim of a single act of human passion. We were gratified at your 
nomination of Major Lee to a foreign station, as a means of bringing into 
public service and consideration his acknowledged talents & noble qualities 
which, though sullied with a stain, would have been an ornament to his coun- 
try, and we deeply regret that your generous intentions toward an unfortunate 
man have been unhappily frustrated and converted to his ruin. 

With sincere wishes for your personal wellfare and the successful operations 
of your administration we are, &c &c — - 



Of this address President Jackson said that it was consoling to him 
and honourable to Lee. Lee wrote to Brown: "this verdict of my coun- 
trymen is impressed with a greater moral force and sinks deeper in the 
heart even than a decree of the Senate. ” s 

One of the principal weapons against Lee was the presentation in the 
Senate by John Tyler of a series of letters alleged to have been written 
by Lee to a Doctor Mayo. Of these letters Richard Brown wrote Tyler, 
April 27, 1833: 

I happened to be in Washington about the time of the action of the senate 
on this subject and from the vast number of misrepresentations which I then 
heard in relation to a correspondence which had been carried on between Maj r - 
Lee, and a Doctor Mayo, I was convinced that it had been submitted to the 
senate in a garbled state or with gross mistatements. On a former occasion the